Wednesday, November 20, 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
  • jimjustsaying's Oxymoron of the Week:  Legal briefs
  • Do animals get their blood pressure taken?  Is it possible to do that?  Is it a "silent killer" for them too? 
  • (The people next door used to have a cat with probably the highest Body Mass Index on record.   But he lived to a ripe old age, so I guess cats can win the genetic lottery, too.)
  • Quarterback names have taken a curious turn in recent years::  Donovan, Peyton, Eli, Tarvaris, Troy, Kyler, Baker, Dak, Deshaun, Gardner, Mason, Jameis . . .   I think when Joe Montana retired,  they must have retired his first name!  
  • You could probably assemble a fairly decent local news program if you could combine the best talent at the three or four local news outlets in your town.  (No one station seems to have an ideal "all-star" cast.)  You'd choose this anchor person (but not his or her partner), the co-anchor person at another station (but NOT his or her partner), the weather person who sounds least like a game-show host or a jargon-spewing weather nerd, and the least annoying of the sports "anchors," many of whom look more like high school math teachers than former jocks. 
  • And then you'd have your pick of the aggregate roster of "reporters,"  who stand out in the rain--umbrella in one hand, microphone in the other, wearing a station-issued, logo-laden poncho--in front of venues where the action was but no longer is.  And all the stations spend too much time on fluff and inconsequential stories and on too many time-wasting teasers of "what's coming up."
  • And then there are the quirks of talk radio people:   "We'll talk much 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? 
  • When I'm not watching sports on TV or listening to various podcasts,  I'm usually reading Homer in the original Greek!
  • Sudden thought: What if they found out that an endangered animal was eating all the endangered plants?
  • Christmas can be lovely and meaningful, but it bothers me.  Bothers me in the same sense that it exacerbates the loneliness of the rejected, underscores the poverty of the underprivileged and lines the pockets of those who don't need all that money and who are callous and indifferent to those who haven't found anything at all jolly in the season.  But the music is enchanting (with some exceptions--I'm talking to you, Brenda Lee), and there are extra cookies and, occasionally, a glimmer of good feeling and the great company of cherished loved ones, many of whom are making their annual appearance of the year.  So there's that.
  • Speaking of Christmas:  jimjustsaying's candidate for Outright Product Packaging Lie of the Year:  "Quick and Easy Setup!"
  • Three good names for French restaurants that are going to waste:  Le Indifference.  Le Extravagance.  Le Exorbitant. 
  • 911 Distress Call of the Month: An impatient driver (is there any other kind?) in San Francisco decided to swerve around a lane of cars stalled in traffic and drove straight into a lane of freshly poured cement, according to news reports. The auto sank about a foot and got stuck.  The vehicle?  A Porsche 911.
  • Why do people scratch their heads when they're trying to think of something?  (Or stroke their chins?)  Do they think they're activating the recall (hippocampus) section of the brain?  How do things like that get started anyway?
  • Is there a League of Men Voters?  Come to think of it, you don't hear much about the other League these days.
  • jimjustsaying's Word That Doesn't Exist But Should of the Week:  "Hooptoots." n. Strange bugle sounds at basketball games,the source of which no one seems to be able to identify.--"Unexplained Sniglets of the Universe," Rich Hall and Friends.
  • There will never be a Richard Belzer Lookalike Contest.
  • jimjustsaying's Party Ice-Breaker of the Week:  "Say [actual partygoer's name here], did you know that the first known advice column appeared in the London magazine The Athenian Mercury  in the 1690s?
  • Don't know what this says about me, but whenever I see a book, magazine or CD or some such  thing out of place in the rack in a store, I always put it where it should be (not always possible!), the better for someone who is actually looking for that item to find it.  I can't help myself. (Call it Shopping Karma 1.0.--or perhaps OCD  Exhibit 1B, C or D.)
  • Redundancy patrol: "General public," "unsolved mystery," "mass exodus."
  • In addition to "the right to bear arms," I think some folks hold just as dearly "the right to bear grudges."
  • Memo to producers of newspaper advertising inserts:  “WOW! doesn’t work for me anymore next to a loss-leader price tag.  I think we sophisticated consumers are  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?
  • Sad but true:  "No matter how cynical you become, it's never enough to keep up."--Lily Tomlin
  • Today's Latin Lesson: Quis diligo got efficio per is got efficio per is? A adsuesco assuesco affectus. ("What's love got to do with it, got to do with it? A secondhand emotion.")


The coming era of cyberwar
It may be hard to believe, but as the U.S. conflict with China heats up, we may soon feel nostalgia for the simpler problems of the Cold War.  The global struggle with the Soviet Union was shaped by the possibility of mutual annihilation by nuclear-tipped ICBMs.  The resulting ‘balance of terror’ kept the Cold War cold.  

But in the 21st century, China will bring far greater economic power to the global competition than the Soviets did, and if serious conflict erupts, the weapon of choice is likely to be cyberwar.  Cyberweapons can devastate their targets, crashing power grids and transportation networks, paralyzing financial systems, and destroying the functionality of anything from hospitals to government offices.  An attack can be mounted by proxies and be hard to trace, making a counterattack more problematic. 

Neither side has much incentive to agree to cybercontrol treaties:  Limits on information technology would be difficult if not impossible to enforce, and both nations will have enormous economic and national-security incentives to develop ever more sophisticated digital capability.  All that makes cyberwar a real possibility.  Terrible as it was, the Cold War took place in less dangerous times.
--Walter Russell Mead, Wall Street Journal

The 1950s were not really great
People on both sides of the political aisle are waxing nostalgic for the 1950S.  Many on the right wish for a return to the country’s conservative mores and nationalist attitudes, while some on the left pine for the era’s high tax rates, strong unions, and lower inequality.

But most objective measures show that things are much better now.  At the end of the 1950s, more than half of black Americans lived below the poverty line.” Many people now remember the decade as a time when a single breadwinner could provide for a family. But a third of women worked in the ’50s, showing that many families needed a second income even if it defied the gender roles of the day—and the women who did work had little chance for fulfilling careers. 

The “good old factory jobs” were often hard and dangerous.  And Americans spent more time working: 2,264 hours a year in 1952, compared with 1,707 today.  And what did workers call home?  The average floor area of a single-family house in 1950 was 983 square feet, the size of a one-bedroom apartment today.  Yes, the 1950s were a decade of progress and hope, but the point of progress and hope is that things get better later.  And they did.
--Noah Smith,

The Berlin Wall: 30 years on, what has changed?
So much for “the End of History."  When the Berlin Wall came down 30 years ago . . ., the free world reacted with giddy euphoria.  That revolutionary moment didn’t just mean the reunification of Germany, we were told, or even the defeat of communism and the end of the Cold War.  The peaceful fall of the Wall was hailed as history’s joyous finish line, after which the global triumph of liberal democracy and capitalism was no longer in serious question.

But history, it turns out, never ended.  Thirty years later, Communist China is the world’s looming hegemon; Hungary and Poland are embracing authoritarian, one-party rule; the forces of tribalism and demagogic populism are ripping Europe apart; after a fleeting Arab Spring, the Middle East has backslid into sectarian bloodshed and tyranny; and in Russia, de facto one-party rule has been re-established by a former KGB officer with all-too-familiar territorial ambitions. 

--Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post

*****Then there’s the elephant in the room.  The United States of America, whose leadership, strength, and example was the decisive factor in the Wall’s collapse, is now led by a NATO-skeptical nationalist who admires Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin and welcomed his interference in a presidential election. Thirty years after the jubilation of 1989, we’ve gone from tearing down walls to building them, and democracy itself seems in retreat.
--John Avlon,

Scientists underestimated climate change
Scientists were wrong about climate change.  It’s happening far faster, and more catastrophically, than almost anyone predicted.  If in 1990 a scientist had suggested that within 25 years a single, massive heat wave would melt enough ice to measurably raise sea levels while baking Paris and Berlin with “Sahara-like temperatures,” they “would have been dismissed as alarmist.”  

But that’s exactly what happened this summer, when temperatures rose into the 80s above the Arctic Circle, melting 40 billion tons of the Greenland ice sheet.  When global warming was first observed, decades ago, scientists assumed that major climatic changes would take a century or more.  But as feedback loops kick in, many of the worst-case scenarios are already becoming a reality.  Seas are warming rapidly, and the Antarctic ice sheets, once believed stable, are crumbling and melting--threatening to inundate coastal cities.  The permafrost in northern latitudes is thawing and could release gargantuan amounts of methane and Co2. With greenhouse gas emissions still climbing, it’s possible that the projected risks of further warming, dire as they are, might still be understated.  In the near future, It is going to get worse. A lot worse.
--Eugene Linden, New York Times

Making free speech illegal
Many liberal Democrats have fallen out of love with free speech, and are calling for censorship and even criminalization of opposing views. In a chilling opinion column, former Time editor Richard Stengel recently called for the U.S. to adopt a “hate speech law,” saying the First Amendment has a design flaw, and should not protect hateful speech that can cause violence by one group against another.  

As an example, he cites attacks on Islam, such as burning the Quran.  Stengel has plenty of company: U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently demanded that Facebook remove any political ad she and her progressive allies deemed “a lie.” Some liberals are even calling for the adoption of European-style hate crime laws. Consider what that would mean: A German politician was charged with a crime for calling immigrants “scum,” and in the U.K., a Baptist minister was briefly jailed for denouncing homosexuality. Despite such censorship, neo-Nazi and extremist parties are on the rise throughout Europe. Banning “bad” speech doesn’t work; the best antidote to ugly ideas is good speech. Our basic freedoms should not be debatable.
--Jonathan Turley, USA Today

Flying cars:  A worldwide race for the skies

*****The race to introduce the first commercial flying taxi is officially on.  Uber, Google, Boeing, and Porsche are among 20 companies testing their machines, laying the groundwork for wider production, and starting to lobby government officials to bring autonomous all-electric vehicles into the skies in just a few years. Lilium, a German startup, has raised more than $100 million from investors. Its prototype jet--which is still seeking certification from European regulator--looks “less like a Jetsons-like flying car than a glider, with a carbon fiber body and 36-foot wingspan.”  But it’s purportedly capable of taking off and landing vertically, like a helicopter, and is quiet enough to land in some areas traditionally off-limits to aircraft--even midtown Manhattan.

--Adam Satariano,  New York Times

*****Just one problem: The proliferation of air vehicles over New York already represents a clear and present danger to public safety.  New York City skies are filled with helicopters, from Uber and smaller companies such as Blade.  Since 1983, there have been at least 30 helicopter crashes in the city.  

--Michael McDowell, New York Magazine

*****In other places, unmanned drones are already creating tension in the skies.  Earlier this month, fire-department helicopters battling wildfires in Los Angeles had to halt for hours because of hobby drones shooting video of the scene.

--James Leggate, FoxBusiness​.com


Why people can't write
Jargons, technical terms and "the curse of knowledge" are to blame

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!