Saturday, September 21, 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. And they're now offering FREE SHIPPING IN THE CONTINENTAL U.S.

The book is also available at:


By Jim Szantor

Rhetorical questions, questionable rhetoric and whimsical observations 
about the absurdities of contemporary life
  • I was planning to start up a pricey burger joint and call it Hamburger Schlemmer.  But then I discovered the name has already been taken, so I'm going with Burgerzon.
  • I was surprised to see what cigarettes cost today--about $8 a pack.  And that was at The Dollar Store!
  • Sept. 20 headline:  "Walgreen's to test drone deliveries with Google's Wing."
  • I guess the "Corner of Happy and Healthy" is now "The Friendly Skies of Happy and Healthy."  ("It's a bird, it's a plane . . . no, it's just Walgreen's dropping off my Preparation H!")
  • Let's kill all the lawyers?  Well, on second thought, we don't have to--the robots will.
  • According to news reports, law firms are using artificial intelligence (AI) to do contract analysis, hunt for client conflicts and even craft litigation strategy. (But I'm already up to speed on all this:  I've got a robot on a retainer.)
  • Quiz time:  Which is the only city with world championships in the NFL, NBA, MLB, the NHL and the MLS? (Answer later in this column.)
  • jimjustsaying's Word That Doesn't Exist of the Month But Should:  AbrahamWashington. n. The unidentifiable "president" on the facsimile bill on a change machine.--From "Unexplained Sniglets of the Universe," Rich Hall and Friends.  (Would that be a counterfeit image or a composite image?)
  • Memo to all companies:  Let me buy something without making me create an account, a user name and a password, and you've got a customer for life. 
  • Moreover, giving me the option of canceling my subscription or whatever service online without having to call and be subjected to a high-pressure sales pitch before the cancellation is enacted will earn you EXTRA points.
  • jimjustsaying's Party Ice-Breaker of the Month:  "Say [actual party-goer's name here], did you know that the first bomb dropped on Berlin by the Allies during World War II killed the only elephant in the Berlin Zoo?
  • Trade war trivia: KFC sells more chicken in China than in the U.S.  ("Let's get some American food tonight.")  And General Motors sells more cars there than in the U.S.  (Hard to think of a Chevy Cruze as a foreign car, but I guess in Shanghai it is.)
  • Let's see if I got this right:  Martha Stewart got five months in prison because of a stock deal and Jeffrey Epstein got 11 months of work release for molesting young girls?  Justice in America. 
  • "Normal is nothing more than a cycle on a washing machine."--Whoopi Goldberg
  • Choice explosion run amok:  Thirty years ago, Colgate had two brands of toothpaste. Today, it has 32, excluding the four they make for children.  You could use one brand a day for a month and still have one or two left over.
  • Another in a series of jimjustsaying's Media Words (words you see in newspapers but rarely if ever hear used by normal people in everyday life):  "Bevy."  (See also "passel," "vaunted" and "embattled").
  • What's new is old?  The Week reports that vinyl records are on pace to outsell compact discs for the first time since 1986.  Fueled by "hipsters and audiophiles,"  the vinyl resurgence coincides with a slump in sales of CDs, which are losing market share to online streaming services.
  • Newspaper Obituary Headline Nickname of the Month:  Pooch.  As in Michael "Pooch" Kamke, Green Bay Press-Gazette, Aug. 25, 2019. R.I.P., Mr. Kamke.
  • Are pets always on vacation . . . or never on vacation?  (And if you take your pet with you on vacation, is that a double vacation for the pet?  Or is it more of a vacation for Fido if you leave home with a neighbor tending to him or put in a kennel?)
  • Airwave nostalgia: How glorious it was when you could channel-switch and find Steve Allen, Jackie Gleason and Sid Caesar without too much trouble.  We're not even close to equaling any one of those much less all three--and we have a couple of hundred more channels.
  • Wise words:  "There is not a politician, policymaker or journalist who hasn't been wrong about Iraq at some point."--Joe Klein, Time magazine.  You could easily substitute Afghanistan or Iran and be just as on point.
  • Quiz answer:  Chicago (supposedly" the city of lovable losers").
  • jimjustsaying's Foreign Word With No English Equivalent of the Month:   Mamihlapinatapai (from the Yaghan language of Tierra del Fuego): That special look shared between two people, when both are wishing that the other would do something that they both want done but neither want to do.
  • Today's Latin LessonUtor es postulo purgo manuum pro recidivus laboro.  ("Employees must wash hands before returning to work.") 


Biden: Truly the most electable?
Joe Biden “is offering nothing” to voters except his insistence that he’s the Democratic candidate with the best chance of beating Donald Trump.  While Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and other Democratic primary rivals are galvanizing people around Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, and calls to redistribute wealth, Biden inspires no one—not even his own wife.   Jill Biden conceded [recently] that Biden’s supposed electability is all he has, when she bizarrely said, “Your candidate might be better on, I don’t know, health care than Joe is, but you’ve got to look at who’s going to win this election, and maybe you have to swallow a little bit and say, ‘OK, I personally like so-and-so better,’ but your bottom line has to be that we have to beat Trump."

--Bhaskar Sunkara, The Guardian 

Putting your friends on the map
Sharing one’s location with friends over smartphones has become the norm for some social groups.   Apple’s Find My Friends, Google Maps, Snapchat and Facebook Messenger all have location-sharing integration.  And, for some, the ability to constantly track one another is a gesture of trust and intimacy.  There is also a sense of safety that comes from having someone always know where you are.  Sharing your location can also be handy to find a friend at a crowded music festival.  A downside:  It’s harder to avoid social interaction and say you already have plans when your friends can see your dot hovering over your home address.
--Julie Beck,

Warren’s nonsensical fracking ban
In a Democratic primary season that has produced a blizzard of far-left ideas,  Elizabeth Warren has just come up with one of the wackiest of all.   Warren [recently] vowed to use an executive order to impose a nationwide ban on fracking on her first day in office—a harebrained scheme that would backfire badly.  Over the past 15 years, the fracking revolution has been one of America’s greatest success stories.  It has helped the U.S. lower its carbon emissions by providing abundant, relatively cheap natural gas for electrical generation, driving dirty coal into steep decline.  In addition, the gas and oil produced by fracking have reduced U.S. energy imports from 60 percent in 2005 to 11 percent today, freeing us from dependency on the likes of Saudi Arabia, Russia and Venezuela.  Eliminating fracking overnight would create a huge energy void that solar and win--which today provide just 10 percent of electrical generation--cannot fill by 2020 or anytime soon. The void would be filled by importing oil and gas from abroad.  If Warren wants Americans to take her candidacy seriously, she needs a new plan to address climate change--one that isn’t based on magical thinking.
--Ariel Cohen,

Supreme Court:  The Democrats’ threat
The Supreme Court as we once knew it died last year.  The battle over what’s left of a once respected institution has now spilled into public view, with Democratic and Republican senators sending extraordinary messages to the justices about their political independence, or lack of it.  First, five Democratic senators filed a “friend of the court” brief in a case about New York City gun laws, accusing the court’s conservative 5-4 majority of doing the bidding of corporate and Republican political interests on such issues as voting rights, partisan gerrymandering, dark money and environmental regulation. “The Supreme Court is not well,” the Democrats’ brief stated, warning that the public may demand the court be “restructured in order to reduce the influence of politics”--a threat to expand the nine-member court and pack it with progressives.  In response, all 53 Republican senators sent a letter "assuring the justices that the Republican Party has their back” and calling Democrats “a direct, immediate threat to the independence of the judiciary."
--Garrett Epps, 


Trump walks a crooked mile
Has he finally gone too far?

Democrats power map a geographic puzzle
Rust and Sun Belts are keys to White House and Senate

Everyone knows the truth about politics
Democrats are scrambling, Trump is a screwball, and the sane center is getting ignored

The one way Democrats emulate Trump
Unconstitutional? So what?

The myth of 'renewable' energy'



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!