Sunday, June 14, 2020

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.
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 think I know Joe Biden’s problem: He’s got two left tongues!
  • I wonder if Donald Trump’s hotels have bibles in all of their rooms? (If they didn’t, they probably do now!)
  • Pandemic ponderings: How do you call In sick if you’re working from home?  Or if you’re a student, does your mother have to call in for you? And what about tardy slips?
  • I’ve got a hunch that people who refuse to wear masks (aka “covidiots”) are the same people who don’t return their cart to the cart corral and leave their messy debris on their fast-food table.
  • For perspective on the Covid-19 virus and the widening Mideast war(s), we turn to Albert Camus:
  • "Everybody knows that pestilence has a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet plagues and wars always take people equally by surprise."--"The Plague, Part 1"
  • There will never be a Whoopi Goldberg Lookalike Contest.
  • Another in a series of jimjustsaying's Occupations No Child Has Ever Aspired To or Fantasized About:  Phlebotomist.
  • Overheard: “My therapist says I have a preoccupation with vengeance. We'll see about that.”
  • "Progress isn't made by early risers.  It's made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something."--Author Robert Heinlein in The Village Voice.
  • When is the last time you saw a juke box?  (And what did they do with all those jukes?)
  • Introducing jimjustsaying’s Golden Rule 2.0: Treat others the way they treated you after you have treated them.
  • Baseball Prank for the Ages: The picture on California Angels infielder Aurelio Rodriquez’s 1969 baseball card is actually a photo of Angels batboy Leonard Garcia, who duped the Topps photographer.
  • Musing:  How many other imposter cards got out there undetected?
  • Faded phrases: “Hang up the phone, “roll down the window” and “flip through the channels.”
  • Vinpocetine, oscillococcinum and bladderswack leaves. Three nutritional (?) supplements I didn't know existed until I opened a Swanson Health Products catalog.  (Kind of hard to work into a conversation, but there you have it.)
  •  You can tell a lot about a person by whether they prefer hard shell of soft shell tacos.
  • I had a dream that the Family Dollar company started a budget burger franchise:  One Guy.
  • Overheard: "If you take the bull by the horns, then what?"
  • jimjustsaying’s restaurant math observation: The combined cost of a cocktail, appetizer and dessert often eclipses the cost of the entrée.  (And they’d probably sell more of each of those if the prices were just a tad less exorbitant.)
  • I saw a sale display for Snickers Fun Size bars.  Fun size?  Aren't all Snickers fun? What do they call the regular-size bar--the Ordeal Size?  The Root Canal Size?  The Ninth Labor of Hercules Size?  
  • jimjustsaying's Snack Food Find of the Month:  Buffalo wing-flavored sunflower seeds.  Who knew?
  • Three things I've never done:  Put something in mothballs, put all my eggs in one basket, put on the dog.
  • Redundancy Patrol: "Close proximity," "join together," "serious crisis."  
  • jimjustsaying's Term That Doesn't Exist But Should of the Month: Sudsorian Calendar:  The calendar used on soap operas that allows one day's events to be stretched over a three-week period.--Rich Hall and Friends, "Unexplained Sniglets of the Universe"
  • A true friend is one who likes you despite your accomplishments.—Novelist Arnold Bennett
  • Newspaper Headline Nickname of the Month:  Lovey.  As in Laverne “Lovey” M. Krickeberg, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 31, 2020.
  • Today's Latin Lesson: Terminus via opus. (End road work.) 

THE QUOTE RACK

Systemic racism: Is it real
***A horrifying video of George Floyd’s death has proven to most Americans that police racism is real. But we have no video showing us the structural racism that has left African-Americans still living in a separate country from whites. Generations of systemic discrimination and oppression have left an enduring mark: The net worth of the average black household is just 10 percent that of whites’—an even greater gulf than in 1968. Today, a black newborn is twice as likely to die in infancy, and those born in poor Southern states have a shorter life expectancy than children born in Bangladesh. Though the Jim Crow era is supposedly over, black children are systematically shunted to largely segregated schools that receive a fraction of the funding enjoyed by schools in wealthy white suburbs.
--Nicholas Kristof, New York Times

***Systemic racism is a canard. Liberals love to cherry-pick statistics to support their tunnel vision about race, but many of the institutions deemed irredeemably racist, such as academia and journalism, overflow with political progressives. Many African-Americans do succeed in our supposedly racist society; for those who still struggle, it’s the paternalistic progressive agenda, not racism, that keeps them trapped in victimhood and dependency.
--Andrew McCarthy, NationalReview.com

***Leftist radicals use the term systemic racism to justify overthrowing our institutions and remaking society. Capitalism is white supremacy, they insist. Immigration enforcement is “racist,” and so is patriotism. In short, the entire Republican agenda is a species of racism.
--John Hirschauer, NationalReview.com

***Republicans, meanwhile, barely concede that racism exists. One of the modern GOP’s core convictions is that widespread racism is no longer a problem. Indeed, support for Donald Trump is highly correlated with the belief that it’s whites who suffer from racial prejudice. But Floyd’s death has triggered a sea change in public attitudes. The coalition of people who see racism as real and requiring major structural change is strikingly broad and diverse. As Trump attacks protesters as radicals and thugs, he is betting his presidency that most Americans agree that systemic racism is a myth.
--Ronald Brownstein, CNN.com

Workers face a cruel ultimatum
Employers are forcing a terrible choice on thousands of workers who are fearful of contracting the coronavirus: Return to work or lose both your job and your unemployment benefits. As more businesses reopen and try to recoup losses after weeks of lockdown, employers are firing workers who stay home—and reporting them to unemployment authorities. Workers at one tea shop in Fort Collins, Colo., asked the shop’s owner to delay reopening and meet with them to discuss safety measures. In response, the owner fired six of them and asked the state to revoke their benefits. “They wanted to wait a little bit longer till the danger passed,” the owner said, “but for us as a small business, the danger is imminent.” 

Some states are pushing hard to make workers return. Tennessee, for example, sent out a press release cautioning reluctant employees that “the fear of contracting the coronavirus was not a good enough excuse not to go back.” One 71-year-old car salesman returned to work in suburban Detroit even though a co-worker had already died of Covid-19. Unable to get through to the unemployment office to see if his benefits would be cut off, he reluctantly went back and now sits in a dealership that’s still almost empty of customers.
--Jack Healy, New York Times

Forecasts: Decade needed for pandemic recovery
***The Congressional Budget Office warned this week that it could take a decade for the economy to fully recover from the pandemic. The nonpartisan agency marked down its 2020–30 forecast for U.S. economic output by $7.9 trillion, or 3 percent of gross domestic product. By the last quarter of 2020, the CBO expects the economy to shrink 5.6 percent. The economy should resume growing after this year, but the pace of growth won’t be fast enough to quickly make up lost ground. While the drop in global factory activity is starting to bottom out, productivity and consumer spending remain weak.
--Paul Hannon and Paul Kiernan, Wall Street Journal

***There isn’t much to cheer here, though much uncertainty still remains. Employment, car sales and housing starts could all take a hit. Globally, we’re moving into a new era when the competition for scarce economic resources promises to become ever more intense. There will be less trade, immigration, and foreign investment, but different industries are still going to be fighting for bigger pieces of the slow-growing national economic pie. Some economists think even this projection may be too optimistic and anticipate the numbers will get adjusted even further down.
--Robert Samuelson, Washington Post

Covid-19: When the illness doesn’t go away
***For an overlooked group of patients, Covid-19 doesn’t end after a few weeks of illness. Months into the pandemic, reports are emerging of thousands of patients who have been wrestling with serious Covid-19 symptoms  for months. These people—most of them under 50 and previously fit and healthy—have had their lives upended by relentless and rolling waves of symptoms that make it hard to concentrate, exercise, or perform simple physical tasks. Their fluctuating symptoms subside for brief spells and then come crashing back, and include breathlessness, racing heartbeat and neurological problems such as “brain fog” and short-term memory loss. Among the so-called long-haulers is Vonny LeClerc, a formerly fit 32-year-old who, 66 days after falling ill, can’t “stand up in the shower without feeling fatigued.” The virus, she said, “has ruined my life.” Unsure what’s happening to them, long-haulers are navigating a landscape of uncertainty and fear.
--Ed Yong, TheAtlantic.com

***Why these patients aren’t improving is one of the ongoing mysteries of Covid-19. One theory is that the virus might be reactivating, a syndrome seen in illnesses such as herpes, which remains dormant between outbreaks. It may just be the normal course of Covid-19, consistent with milder viral illnesses that can return or worsen after seeming recovery. More worrisome, it may be a chronic postviral condition that lasts even after the virus is no longer detectable. While some doctors are confident these patients will recover, others have doubts—as does Susan Nagle of Massachusetts, who is on her third month of symptoms. “My fear is that ‘relapses’ are my new normal,” she said.
--Fiona Lowenstein, Vox.com

***Long-term illnesses sparked by viral infections are devastatingly common. The biggest is myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), a disease that’s often triggered by infection and may affect up to 2.5 million Americans. Its symptoms—fatigue, muscle pain, cognitive problems—mirror those of Covid long-haulers.
--Brian Vastag and Beth Mazur, Washington Post

Will Trump find a way to win?
Many Republicans think that President Trump will find a way out of his current troubles and win November’s election. After shocking the pundits and pollsters in 2016 by defeating the heavily favored Hillary Clinton, Trump carries an aura of invincibility among the approximately 43 percent of Americans who’ve steadily supported him since he took office. But Trump’s incredible run of good fortune has run out, and polls show him losing to Joe Biden by 5 to 10 points and trailing in swing states. The coronavirus has ruined Trump’s signature issue, the economy.

Not since 1940 has a president been re-elected with a double-digit unemployment rate, and joblessness is now at 15 percent and heading into the 20s. Even in the best of times, Trump has never reached 50 percent approval—unlike every other president in 85 years of polling history. Could Trump pull a rabbit out of his hat and win in the Electoral College despite losing the popular vote—again?

--Matthew Continetti, National Review.com

Self-driving cars still in the slow lane
***It’s 2020, so where are our driverless cars? This was the year they were supposed to go mainstream,” but instead the technology is still far from ready, and many investors are wary of dumping more money into it. The Covid-19 pandemic has presented additional roadblocks. Autonomous vehicle (AV) companies need at least two people in the car to avoid accidents as they test their tech on the street, but social-distancing rules prohibit that. The pandemic has also hastened an industry shakeout that was already starting to happen. The typical AV startup spends four times as much as a typical startup in fintech or health care—and has zero revenue.
--Cade Metz and Erin Griffith, New York Times

***It’s not just the pandemic. A fatal accident involving a self-driving Uber in 2018 prompted some companies to be “increasingly honest about the challenges. Nissan, for instance, has admitted that it’s unlikely to produce self-driving cars before the end of the decade,\ while Toyota shifted into a more research-oriented strategy that focuses on accident prevention. The rush to be first has apparently been replaced with business plans adjusted for profit and long-term development and testing. Companies are now asking, “How safe is safe enough?”
--Roberto Baldwin, Car and Driver

***Much of the business case for self-driving vehicles also depended on a vision of fleets of shared cars that’s now in question. The pandemic is making passengers think about the last person to ride in any ride-share vehicle. That’s wiping away dreams of robo-taxi fleets or picking up cars conveniently left on the road parked and ready for the next driver. Self-driving cars will remain very unaffordable for a long time, and if people insist on owning their own vehicles, the financial equation becomes very difficult.
--Jim Motavalli, New York Times

***Covid-19 may have upset some milestones for passenger cars, said but there’s never been a better time for groceries or medicines delivered by an algorithm on wheels. In Texas, we’re already seeing robots from Nuro ferrying groceries from Kroger. The case for cheaper shipping is stronger than ever; ubiquitous self-driving trucks could cut at least half the costs from trucking freight.
--Kyle Stock, Bloomberg.com

The skinny gene
We all know the type: those annoying people who can seemingly eat whatever they want without putting on any pounds. New research suggests these folks can scarf without worrying about their waistline thanks to a “skinny” gene that keeps them slim, Researchers examined the DNA samples and clinical data of more than 47,000 healthy people, ages 20 to 44, from Estonia. They found that the thinnest people by body mass index typically had a specific genetic variant in the ALK gene. Mutations in this gene, which is involved in cell growth, have previously been connected to the formation of cancerous tumors. 

To see if the ALK gene could also play a part in diet-induced obesity, the researchers deleted it in mice and fed them a fatty diet. The result: The genetically altered mice remained skinny, whereas the control group became fat. The researchers now hope to see whether inhibiting these genes in humans could reduce obesity. “ALK inhibitors are used in cancer treatments already,” says senior author Josef Penninger, from the University of British Columbia. “It’s targetable.”
--ScienceDaily.com

Mass extinction accelerating
The sixth mass extinction of wildlife on Earth is already underway, scientists say—and it’s happening much faster than previously thought. Researchers analyzed data on more than 29,400 endangered land vertebrates. They found that about 500 critically endangered species—those with 1,000 or fewer individuals left, including the Sumatran rhino, the harlequin frog and the Española giant tortoise—were likely to become extinct within the next 20 years. In comparison, 543 species are known to have gone extinct over the past century, a level of loss that would normally take 10,000 years. Another 388 species currently have populations between 5,000 and 1,000.

Scientists say the loss of some of these animals—most of which live in the tropics—could trigger a domino effect, in which the extinction of one species causes the decline of another that is dependent on it, eventually threatening the entire ecosystem. While previous mass extinctions were the result of natural causes—the most recent being the asteroid strike that wiped out the dinosaurs—this one is being driven by humans, with habitat destruction and the wildlife trade the main factors. Co-author Paul Ehrlich, from Stanford University, tells The Guardian (U.K.) that humanity is sawing off the limb on which it is sitting, destroying working parts of our own life-support system.
--The Week

LAGNIAPPE


Comedy under quarantine: How standup has survived

*****Comedy is changing before our eyes. When the Covid-19 outbreak ended routine social gathering, comics adjusted quickly to the new normal, and the entrepreneurial innovations they and their producers have dreamed up should have an impact on the culture long after the lockdown ends. If you’re a fan of comedy, you probably miss live stand-up and laughing alongside other members of an audience gathered in the same room. But besides lapping up short Instagram videos by character-based performers such as Meg Stalter, the audience for standup is buying tickets and showing up for various livestreaming substitutes. Certain popular shows have pulled in revenues and profits from tickets that far exceed what a night at the club used to bring in.

--Jason Zinoman, New York Times

*****As for the style of Covid-era comedy, it’s the Wild West out here. Knowing that viewers’ attention is more likely to drift, performers are taking new chances. Everything that used to feel slightly gimmicky at a stand-up show—visual props, a PowerPoint presentation—is now a welcome wrinkle. So the co-hosts of “Butterboy” (butterboycomedy.com), which had been Brooklyn’s hottest weekly comedy show, might be seen doing a tarot reading for a guest. Scott Rogowsky, host of “IsoLate Night” (isolatenight.com), sometimes plays Rolodex Roulette, calling his contacts at random. Every host has had to grapple with how to provide the comics with the instant feedback of audience laughter without exposing the show to disruptive hecklers. But the format has not been a comedy killer. Ben Gleib and Steve Hofstetter’s Nowhere, a new venture that bills itself as the first exclusively digital comedy club, has packed its calendar with headline talent and sells about 300 tickets to each of its weekly shows on Zoom.

--Joe Berkowitz, Fast Company

*****The choices for comedy fans don’t end there. For months Jim Gaffigan has been roping his wife and five kids into “Dinner With the Gaffigans,” which streams live almost every night on YouTube. As you’d expect, the whole clan is pretty darn hilarious, especially when responding to user questions in the open chat feature. Cat Cohen is meanwhile “churning out truly stellar Instagram content” for her Wednesday show ‘Cabernet Cabaret”—which, yes, often involves singing. And don’t forget about Paul Feig. “The Bridesmaids” director hosts a daily cocktail hour on Instagram Live, where he lounges with his wife, his dog, and a drink in hand. It’s an easy-breezy program that feels like a lazy afternoon with a good ol’ pal.

--Cody Gohl,TheManual.com


THE LINK TANK


How our shared Coronavirus experience will change us
Pandemic is first truly collective trauma in decades to affect every American
https://www.nationalreview.com/2020/04/shared-coronavirus-experience-will-change-us-in-countless-ways/


The age of coddling is over
Learning what hardship has to teach us
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/16/opinion/coronavirus-medical-training.html

Surprising facts about everyday objects

From devilish forks to . . . .



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.