Tuesday, June 4, 2024

CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENTS


What they're saying about Jim's provocative blog:

--I'd pay anything to make this go away!"—Donald Trumpd Pecker

--“If you like stuff written by a man who has to read the instructions on a toothpaste tube, go right ahead!”Stephen Colbert

--"The only column that should come with a warning label.”Steve Martin

--"I'm actually jealous of his popularity!"--Taylor Swift

--"I love it when he says he doesn’t always agree with everything he says.”Joe Biden

--"The one thing I didn't delete from my private server."--Hillary Clinton

--I swear, he’s the real deal!”George Santos

--"Jimaschizzle!"--Calvin Broadus, Jr. (aka Snoop Dogg)

--“Acerbic comedy without the annoying aftertaste!”Jimmy Kimmel


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 was a teenage acupuncturist.

--I wish TV stations would tighten up their definition of BREAKING NEWS and restrict it to explosions, plane crashes, terrorist attacks, earthquakes and other cataclysmic acts of God, assassinations of key political figures, etc.  "Donald Trump is about to take the stage at the VFW in Numnutz, Nebraska" does not, in my estimation, qualify in any sense of the term.

--Overheard:  "He was dressed to the fives!"

--I keep hearing about all these "surrogates" campaigning for their favored candidates.  Yet another example of politics going off the rails. Did FDR, Ike or Barack Obama have to rely on stand-ins to get their message across?

--Gardeners, don't be distressed if your yield doesn't look like the stuff in the seed catalogs.  Those pictures were posed by professional vegetables!

--Book Title of the Week (spotted in a pet tore): "Dachshunds for Dummies."  (There Is order in the universe after all!)

--Someone asked me the other day if something I had done was on my "bucket list."  I was somewhat taken aback, because I don't really have one.  What I do have, however, is a reverse bucket list, a word that rhymes with "bucket" but is, in fact, another word and refers to an activity I conceivably might consider for a nanosecond but would immediately reject.  

(“Jim, wanna ride from Chicago to New York and back in a hot-air balloon?”  “Ah, I suppose I could, but  . . . ah,  ---- it.”)

--Judging from the media these days--print, electronic, digital or whatever--the suffixes "ageddon" and "pocalypse" have replaced "gate" as the new, trendy rhetorical crutches to describe any crisis, scandal or weather woe that tries our communal souls.   (I know "media" isn't the root of the word "mediocrity," but at times it seems that way.)

--jimjustsaying's Word That Don't Exist But Should of the Month: Malibugaloo: n. A dance that affects barefoot beachgoers on hot summer days.--"More Sniglets" by Rich Hall & Friends

--She said it: “You look ridiculous if you dance. You look ridiculous if you don't dance. So you might as well dance.”—Gertrude Stein in “Three Lives.”

--He said it: “I’m not afraid of dying.  I just don’t want to be there when it happens!”--Woody Allen

--jimjustsaying’s Newspaper Obituary Headline Nickname of the Month: “Spike.” As in, Dr. Richard “Spike” Herz, Kenosha (Wis.) News, May 12, 2024.

--"What a nice day" some folks said to me recently when it reached 75.  My reply: "Not really."  (The wind, you see, was blowing at about 35 mph, with an air-quality alert to boot!)

Weather, to me, is like a pizza.  You wouldn't eat raw pizza dough, no matter what else was on it, so why does one factor--a balmy temperature--automatically make it "a nice day"? 

If you have a nice temperature (the dough) along with a gentle breeze, low humidity, bearable barometric pressure and decent air quality (the cheese, the sauce, the toppings, if you will), then you have a nice day.  But damp air, high winds and an ozone alert can make for a dismal day--whatever the temperature.  But for some folks, temperature is the whole ballgame.

--Overheard: “I was married by a judge.  I should have asked for a jury.”

--Closed Caption Gaffe of the Week, courtesy of CNN: “New Finland” (instead of Newfoundland).

--Why do auctioneers have to talk that fast?  Are they double parked? That's one reason I don’t go to auctions--I can’t hear that fast.

--I thought that "No Outlet" and "Dead End" were two ways of saying the same thing.  But according to Snopes.com: "No Outlet can mean that though other streets may branch off of the road ahead, they don't lead anywhere either." 

--People who say "asterick" instead of "asterisk" should be jabbed repeatedly with colored hors d'oeuvre toothpicks.  (And what’s so hard about the word “ask” that leads to you hearing it as “axe” by certain people?  I’mjustsayin’.)

--Why is the badger the Wisconsin state animal?  No one I know has ever seen one; 90-year-old hunters and game wardens have never seen one. These beasts could be extinct for all we know!

(Wisconsin--the Extinct Animal State should replace America’s Dairyland on the state’s license plates; unfortunately, it wouldn’t fit. And most notably, California, not Wisconsin, is the leading product of said products.)

--Product-choice explosion: I counted 10 different varieties of Crest Toothpaste at a Target store the other day.

--I wonder what the demise (or scarcity) of phone books has done to the printing industry?  Or the cellphone for the phone booth manufacturers? Therefore, jimjustsaying’s Law of Progress:  Every new product or practice sounds the death knell for someone or someplace else.  (One man’s invention is another man’s insolvency?)

It’s biblical.  There are probably IT people who think they are in the hot new profession . . . but may find out otherwise sooner than they expected.

--“Only the dead have seen the end of war.”—Plato

--Three “s” words that sound exactly like their meaning:  Suave, smut and spoof.

--Last year my car had a recall for the thingamajig, and this year my wife’s car has a recall for the whatchamacallit!  Who do I blame, what’shisname?

--Redundancy patrol:  "Arson fire," "enter into," "inner core."

--You know you have a serious problem if your cholesterol count has a comma in it.

--Rite of passage for Saudi Arabia teenagers” “Hey, Dad, can I have the camel tonight?”

--Wise words from Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times:

"Whenever I hear that America has never been such a mess or so divided, I think not just of the Civil War but of my own childhood: the assassinations of the 1960s; the riots; the murders of civil rights workers; the curses directed at returning Vietnam veterans; the families torn apart at generational seams; the shooting of students at Kent State; the leftists in America and abroad who quoted Mao and turned to violence because they thought society could never evolve.

"If we got through that, we can get through this."

DRUDGING AROUND: Demise of Red Lobster case study in how to kill business . . . Supercomputer predicts humans will face “triple-whammy” extinction event . . . VEGAS SHOCK: “Possessed” murder suspect ate man’s face, eyeball and ear . . . Rising number of men DON’T want jobs . . .  LA’s dirtiest cop: Mild-mannered traffic officer who moonlighted as hit man . . . NYPD to use drones as “first responders” on 911 calls . . . Celeb therapist accused of abusing client with “laser beam” penis . . . Homes of billionaires in Nantucket falling into ocean at alarming rate . . . World’s most busted  man dies at 74; had more than 1,500 arrests . . . San Diego cop resigns after alleged backseat sex with suspect . . . Denver cops say drones will respond to 911 calls instead of cops . . . Judge stunned as man with suspended license joins Zoom meeting while driving.  (Thanks, as always, to Matt Drudge and his merry band of aggregators.)

jimjustsaying’s favorite baseball oddities:

Eye guy: Pitcher Max Scherzer (Texas Rangers) has one blue and one brown, a condition called heterochromia.


"Ship outta luck": The great-grandmother of Dodgers backup catcher A.J. Ellis had a ticket to travel from Hungary to England on the Titanic but was late and missed the boat..

Smoke 'em inside: The press box in Cincinnati was evacuated on Opening Day when mop heads caught fire in a dryer.

Strategy Gaffe of the Year:  The Yankees throw the first pitch of an intentional walk to Kendrys Morales of the Angels, change their mind and pitch to him and suffer the consequences—a three-run homer.

Good break, bad break:  The same Kendrys Morales has his season ended by a fractured leg suffered during the mob celebration at home plate following his walk-off grand slam.

Time Out:  Rockies catcher Miguel Olivo passes a kidney stone while batting in the 8th inning against Arizona, then returns in the ninth to line a single.

Matchup throwback:  Brian Bannister, son of ex-White Sox hurler Floyd Bannister, wins a Gavin Floyd-Brian Bannister starting pitcher duel.

Footloose Cardinals rookie David Freese, on the Disabled List with a sprained right ankle, then drops a weight that fractures his left big toe.

Food fluke:  Garrett Jones of the Pirates misses a game when a piece of meat lodged in his esophagus must be surgically removed.

Food Fluke II:  A player suffers a major injury during a postgame celebration for the second time in the season as Florida's Chris Coghlan tears a meniscus delivering a shaving-cream pie to the face of Wes Helms.

So close but so far:  After 1,571 minor-league games, 33-year-old John Lindsey makes his Major League debut by pinch-hitting for the Dodgers, but when a pitching change is made, is removed for another pinch hitter before he sees a single pitch.

Payroll Schmayroll:  Javier Vazquez, at $11.4 million, is the highest-salaried healthy player ever to be left off his team's post-season roster.

Last Man Standing:  With the team out of options, Phillies ace pitcher Roy Oswalt plays two innings in left field (the team's first pitcher in 39 years to play another position), catches a flyball and then makes the last out of the game as a batter in a 16-inning loss to Houston, his former team.

(Thanks to Athlon Sports.Com.)

--And finally, as if being a minor-league baseball player isn’t bad enough (low pay, long rides on crummy buses), some now must suffer the indignity of playing for teams with goofy, demeaning names, the New York Times reports:  Such as (and these are NOT made up), the Danville Dairy Daddies.

Former rookie-league teams like the Burlington (N.C.) Royals and Pulaski (Va.) Yankees in the Appalachian League re-emerged as the Sock Puppets and River Turtles.

Teams that maintained their MLB affiliations have also jumped on the funky name train with hopes of invigorating their brands. Pick nearly any league, at any level, and there’s a nickname or logo that will make you stop and gawk. The Carolina Disco Turkeys. The Montgomery (Ala.) Biscuits (formerly the Orlando Rays). The Minot (N.D.) Hot Tots. The Rocket City (Ala.) Trash Pandas (formerly the Mobile Bay Bears). The Wichita Chili Buns (an alternate identity of the Wichita Wind Surge). And there’s also a Double A affiliate of the San Diego Padres called the Amarillo Sod Poodles.

Today’s Latin Lesson: Quomodo dicturus sum nepotibus meis olim
lusi Sock automata? (“How am I going to tell my grandchildren
I once played for a team called the Sock Puppets?”)
 

Many thanks to Joe Hannesberg, this month’s Popcorn intern.


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.



A NICE SHOUT-OUT

From the Summer/Fall issue of THE NOTE, a celebrated quarterly publication devoted to jazz.  I knew they were running my interview with Willie Maiden, a genius of a composer/arranger/saxophonist and longtime confidant of Maynard Ferguson, but I didn't expect this!  (They said they would add "a little blurb" about me.)

Scroll down to Page 7 (and also enjoy the interviews with two of my all-time favorites, alto sax legend Phil Woods and clarinet virtuoso Eddie Daniels).

https://www.bing.com/ck/a?!&&p=6966ff0ee36d89b9JmltdHM9MTY4Njk2MDAwMCZpZ3VpZD0wNzAwMmUxNS1kNjE1LTYwOTctMTVmYi0zY2FlZDc4NjYxMGMmaW5zaWQ9NTE3MA&ptn=3&hsh=3&fclid=07002e15-d615-6097-15fb-3caed786610c&psq=The+Multi-faceted+Jim+Szantor&u=a1aHR0cHM6Ly9pbWcxLndzaW1nLmNvbS9ibG9iYnkvZ28vMzM5NjYyZmEtNzJkMi00ODI5LWE3MmItMzU0YWJmZjNkNWYwL1RIRSUyME5PVEUlMjBTVU1NRVIlMjBGQUxMJTIwMjAyMiUyMHdlYi1lMzJiOGM4LnBkZg&ntb=1

LAGNIAPPE

 


THE ONION MANIFESTO

By Jim Szantor

Some people do not cry when onions are peeled, chopped sliced or diced.  Others cry when they are merely mentioned or even implied.  What is it about the allium cepa that causes it to be de rigueur in recipes, seemingly mandatory at McDonald’s and compulsory in casseroles?

What magical properties accrue to this vile vegetable of the hollow, tubular leaves and edible, rounded bulb? What culinary clout does it hold? Do onions cure cancer, prevent baldness or remove unsightly age spots? Are they a surefire Covid killer?

Were onions served at the Last Supper?  Does Taylor Swift eat them?

Some answers, assertions and affirmations in a moment. First, though, a position paper of sorts on the plight of one who must make his way as a consumer in an onion-obsessed world.

If the onion does to you all the things it does to someone who cannot stand, bear, countenance, abide or otherwise tolerate its taste, you know what it is:

--To sit down to a meal anywhere and find the main dish (not to mention the appetizer, soup or salad) loaded with the loathsome ingredient.  How to negotiate this culinary minefield politely if not furtively without offending the hostess?  How to suppress the whimpering and retching attendant to the ordeal?

--To wait endlessly—punitively—at fast-food establishments that package the item with other, more respectable and comestible condiments.  Kudos to the franchises that make the onion an option; a pox on those that operate under the assumption that those little white, chopped interlopers will be loved and consumed with relish by all.

--To grab eagerly for a new entrée in the supermarket’s frozen food section, only to recoil when it is discovered that onions--dehydrated, flaked, powdered or fuel-injected--are part of the bargain, take it or leave it. (In the finest of print, of course.)

It is a mystery why the onions are so omnipresent in the gustatory scheme of things, when to some they are slimy if boiled, repugnant if raw and palatable only if fried to a crisp—to such a crisp, that is, that only the crisp, and not the actual onion essence, is tasted.  (Full disclosure: I recall quite fondly the Onion Straws served by a New Orleans eatery, a close encounter I have yet to live down, there being is a living witness.)

The true enemy of the onion feels not only persecuted but also triumphant when able to detect the faintest evidence of its flavoring.  Cook a beef stew with boiled onions in a mesh bag and remove them prior to serving? The congenital onion-hater can tell.   That’s because the onion has little subtlety, is totally devoid of finesse.  It always lingers near the scene of the crime, fouling the breath and otherwise making its ingestion hard to forget.  But this seasoned onion adversary survives each close encounter, his palate and olfactory glands able to detect its unpleasant properties everywhere.

It could be argued that eating a hamburger with onions is—dare I say it?—an antisocial act.  My hamburger with tomato and pickles flies under the radar, even in close quarters.  Someone eating one loaded with onions in whatever form?  He or she is, in effect, broadcasting with appallingly broad bandwidth, callously indifferent to the consequences!

The onion’s raison d’etre?

According to noted chef Jean Banchet of Le Francaise in the Chicago suburb of Wheeling’s fabled Restaurant Row, “Onions add a lot of flavor, a unique flavor, to soups, sauces and salads.”  He prefers cooked over raw, though, and opts for the shallot, an onion cousin, for fish and bordelaise sauce.

The onion, in the allium giganteum genus, is a real attention-getter, both in the garden and in cut flower arrangements.  It is one, however, that even Mr. Anti-Onion can appreciate, for this flowery version is not to be eaten.

But the more common garden variety is one that a former colleague, Chicago Tribune food editor Joanne Will, says “is worth crying over.”

“Onions not only enrich other flavors but they make a statement of their own.  Just think of some of the things onionophiles would have to give up: deeply browned and caramelized sweet onion soup, boiled baby onions saturated with cream sauce (a must with Thanksgiving turkey), crisply delicious, battered onion rings.”

To a close and cherished associate (one who has prepared this author’s meals for 53-plus years), the onion is an ingredient both pleasurable and problematic.  To cater to her husband’s unfathomable oddity, meal preparation is fraught with strategies, dodges, reluctant omissions and, sometimes, downright deceit. In short, to keep peace in the family, she has to keep the onions out of the crock pot.

There are untold hardships for one who was born unequal in that his tase buds are out of step with the rest of humanity’s.  The onion, in its ubiquity, has made coping more cumbersome, ordering more odious and tasting more tentative for the afflicted.  Unquestionably, the onion is an affront, an imposition, equally detestable, whether served by gracious hostesses, celebrated chefs or sullen countermen.

But if you are among the majority who cannot live without onions, by all means indulge and enjoy.  This is only an open admission of an aberration, a venting of a lifelong loathing, not a produce section polemic.  Some of my best friends buy, cook eat and even grow them. But they’ve never grown on me.

Until the onion makes the headlines (remember the Great Potato Famine, the cranberry scare of 1959, Red Dye No. 2 and other periodic pantry-related panics), it will be the same old story for those who can’t stand them, those who dream of the day when restaurant signs and menus everywhere will contain these words:

No smoking, no substitutions, no onions.


ODE TO THE GREASY SPOON

BY JIM SZANTOR

The chili could be malicious and downright unforgiving.  The omelets sometimes look like yellow Play-Doh flecked with foreign bodies.  The coffee isn’t strong enough to defend itself, and the waitress puts the plates down with an offhand finality.  Breakfast served any time.  Eggs any style.  The soup? It’s navy bean.

 It’s easy to put down the greasy spoon, that ubiquitous testament to the tacky and the Tums.  But by whatever name—luncheonette, diner, café, grill, coffee shop, ptomaine parlor—it used to account for 40-50 percent of the eat-out dollar, according to industry sources.  Now?  Not so much, as changing tastes and the sweep of urban renewal have relegated it into a virtual museum piece--a slow-food square peg in a round hole of a fast-food, instant-everything, drive-through and highly hyphenated universe. Some things just sort of happen, with no grand design or Machiavellian malice aforethought.

 But the greasy spoon was a slice of Americana that clung to the fork with nary a nod to fad or fashion.  There were no vegetarian plates, as meat and potatoes carried the day and the night and the mortgage.  The Serv-Naps filed out of their countertop compartments as the daily duet of eat-and-runs and lingerers played their way through an unconducted arrangement.  The beef was “govt.-inspected”—but did it pass?  There was a counter-top jukebox selector, with some pop, some country, some rock but definitely no Rachmaninoff.

You know the place.  Everyone, whether through happenstance, resignation or momentary indifference has ended up at one of these Edward Hopper-esque establishments, clutching a greasy knife or fork. How the spoon, which generally just stirred the coffee, got left holding the bag is a mysteryforever lost in the mists of time.

Whatever their culinary merits, one could develop an irrational affection for the emporiums of this genre.  And they were more than eating places.  Sociologically they could be an over-the-counter salve for the tattered psyches of the urban disenfranchised, who hoped they wouldn’t close on Christmas and trap them in their cheap hotel rooms.  They were sort of halfway hash house social clubs, with no membership list but plenty of dues, where the help was as transient as the trade.

Some of these motley establishments were actually respectable—sometimes good—and do not deserve to be painted in such tawdry tones.  Almost always locally owned, they were probably more consistent at their level than some tonier “destination dining” spots and had a more devoted clientele, who prided themselves on being regulars, never had to state their orders and were probably as good as the National Guard should someone get surly with the waitress.  Perhaps the key to their fate is how many such places are opening these days, not how many are closing.

But while there’s time, the eyes above the menu survey the scene and laugh and marvel at a few things:

--The waitress always looks like she is glad they are out of whatever they are out of.

--The catsup bottle says “restaurant pack,” whatever that’s supposed to mean.

--The busboy is a strong man--a bit too strong—but he didn’t shower up with Irish Spring.

--There’s a fill-up-the-sugar-container fetish that is hard to fathom.  Today’s two fingers’ worth on top of yesterday’s two fingers’ worth.  The sugar at the bottom was refined in 1952.

--The “chef” has more tattoos than specialties and thinks “Guide Michelin” plays for the Montreal Canadiens.

--The cream pies and such are kept at a tongue-numbing 33 degrees.

--The sandwich plates are larger than they need to be, but the dinner plates. . . .

--The cashier/owner always seems to be eating ice cream out of a coffee cup on a stool near the cash register.

--They honor the “law” that says coleslaw shall be served in flimsy paper or plastic cups and in minute amounts.

--The spaghetti always comes with “rich meat sauce.”

--The menu always has an item or two that no one has ever ordered.  Who orders Red Snapper in places like this?

--If you want something to go, you have to stand in a special place, probably so they won’t confuse you with people who prefer to eat standing up with their hands in their pockets.

--The floor is usually brown-and-yellow tile squares, in accordance with the Seedy Restaurant Color Scheme Act of 1942.

--Some old guy always comes in about 10 p.m. and orders a bowl of bran cereal.

---The menu is a Sargasso Sea of misspelled names and fanciful if not fraudulent descriptions.  From the Broiler.  From the Sea.  But never From the Freezer.

--The server never fills in all those bureaucratic squares at the top of the “guest check” and writes diagonally across the lined form.  What’s more, she has a Ph.D. in abbreviations.

--One of the customers always looks like he is doing his income tax at one of the tables.

--Somebody always walks by the window and waves in just before he disappears.

--You’re the only one at the counter, and some guy walks in and sits right next to you.

--The french-fried shrimp comes with enough cocktail sauce to cover about two pieces.

--The table’s wobble is always half-corrected with a dirty folded napkin or three.

--The clock is always stopped at something like 2:42.

--The Muzak is always playing something like “Never on Sunday” or “Nom Domenticar.”

--The cook flip-slides the plates across the high stainless-steel counter, and they always stop short, as if equipped with disk brakes.

--The cashier always puts your change down on a spikey rubber thing that looks like an oversized scalp massager.

****************************************************************************

In the early morning lull, after the midnight rush hour subsides, the buzz of the fluorescent now equals the sizzle of the grill as the beat cop walks in and sinks into the house booth.

 “Say, where’s Sally?  She off tonight?”

“Nah, she quit.  Went back with her old man.”

“Oh . . . . Say, you got any a that meat loaf left.  Haven’t eaten all day.”

“Nah, meat loaf’s out.  All’s I got left is thuringer.”

“Thuringer, huh.  Well . . . gimme a piece of that blueberry.”

(Illustration:  Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks,” 1942)

Forecast Follies (or . . . "Here's Jim with the Weather")

Mark Twain famously said, ”Everyone talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” 

And since reports of Mr. Twain’s death were not highly exaggerated, I’d like to fill in for him and address something we apparently can’t do anything about, either—the nonsensical, downright insulting barrage of verbiage issuing forth daily from what used to be called TV “weathermen” (and they were all of that gender back in the day) but are now known as “meteorologists,” as if space rocks were an omnipresent factor in our lives.  As in, “60 percent chance of precipitation by daybreak, with 0.000001 percent chance of meteor collision.”  (Meteor showers do occur, but usually are not perilous enough to cancel your picnic plans. They have yet to be seen in the Bus Stop Forecasts or the Car Wash Advisories that “humanize” these bloated segments.)

The weather portions (there are usually two—a fairly brief “teaser” early on and later, the Big Production) of most TV newscasts are, first of all, way too long (and coupled with all those time-wasting teasers about “what’s coming up,” leave precious little time for what we actually tune in for—news).  We don’t need to know where the Alberta Clipper fizzled, that an El Nino is in mid-formation or that a front in central Montana caused a “dusting” in northern Iowa.  And as for those “pockets of snow” we were supposed to get last night, I looked in mine and, blessedly, found none. But the station has paid serious coin for all of the glitzy graphics and radar capabilities, and by God, they are going to be used, if even just to show us what the rainfall looks like in downtown Racine “right at this very moment.”  Gripping.

And then there is the universal, comically contrived “personalization” factor, apparently de rigueur on all stations. It’s never “Thursday’s forecast,” it’s (ahem), “the forecast for your Thursday . . . .”  One can only envision the rapturous glow viewers must feel when luxuriating in the warmth of that gratuitous pronoun! (As if that forecast applies only to you, no one else. Ah, exclusivity.)

If one were to awaken from a 30-year coma, he or she would probably be mystified not only by cellphones, laptops and GPS devices but also by the existence of a curious phenomenon known as The Weather Channel: All weather, all the time--a nonstop barrage of jargon, gaudy graphics and arcane factoids.  How did we ever exist without it? When it’s a slow weather day (and in this day of acute climate change, there’s always a crisis on the front burner somewhere), footage of past calamities will fill the bill for weather junkies or the aficionados of disaster porn.

Those with (ahem) backgrounds as editors find the nightly weather segments to be cringefests in the extreme.  Temps don’t just drop into the 20s, they “drop down,” as if “dropping up” were a physical possibility.  Is snow or rain in the forecast? No, we’ll have “snow showers” or “rain showers.”  And it’s never just “sun”; it’s “sunshine,” as if that extra syllable ramps up the warmth.  These folks never pass up an opportunity to gild the lily, because we’re often told of the possibility of “rain events” or “snow events,” which leads me, at least, to wonder if I will need a ticket, if there will be guest speakers and if refreshments will be served.  (Spotty Showers?  That was my clown name back in the day, a story to be told when the Vernal Equinox rolls around.  Which this year, in the Northern Hemisphere, will be at 10:33 a.m. CST on March 20.  Mark your calendar.)

But my pique rises to fever pitch in winter, when we’re often told during our seven-month layered-look season to “bundle up,” as if we lifelong Midwesterners have no prior experience with winter weather--as if we had all just parachuted in from Jamaica in our underwear and had no idea on how to adorn ourselves in these brutal climes.  We don’t need to be told how to dress when icicles form—we’ve been there, done that—and resent the insinuation. One of the local weather wordsmiths hails from San Diego, and he’s telling us what to wear?  Outrageous.  I’d like to send him back to sunny California on his surfboard or his skateboard, preferably when the barometric pressure equals the dew point and, optimally, on a jet stream.

More and more women are seen these days holding forth during TV weather segments, and they have proven themselves every bit the equal of the men—long-winded and grammatically challenged. Positive role models apparently are non-existent; the often-parodied “weather bunnies” are blessedly a thing of the past (their anatomical attributes far outweighed their academic credentials), and the first exemplary female trailblazer with any gravitas has yet to be found. 

So please, Mr., Mrs. or Ms. Meteorologist, do us all a favor:  Stop behaving as if you are getting paid by the word, spare me the details about weather phenomena that have no bearing on our locale and, most of all, stop insulting our intelligence.  Chill out, stick to the weather and let us worry about our wardrobes.  Failing that, my fondest wish is that I could take all of you, get you all bundled up and sent to the Sahara.  There’s a 99.99 percent chance that you won’t need an umbrella or have to worry about a lake effect, a polar vortex or banal banter with the anchor desk. 

And now here’s Al with the Sports.

--Jim Szantor  


Wednesday, May 1, 2024

POPCORN

                                                              By Jim Szantor

Rhetorical questions, questionable rhetoric 

and whimsical observations about the absurdities of contemporary life 

--I was a teenage paleontologist.

--I’m trying to trace my family’s roots, but I’m a bit puzzled.  I mean, where is Caucasia anyway?

--Overheard: "People call Americans lazy. We're NOT lazy, We've only been in this country for 300 years, but we built nuclear weapons plants, malls, factories, fast food, the iPhone . . .  We're not lazy--we're done." 

--Politicians talk and talk and posture and promise, but when the smoke clears, the dirty dishes are still in the sink.

--Zadra's Law of Biomechanics:  The severity of the itch is inversely proportional to the location.

--jimjustsaying's Term That Doesn't Exist But Should of the Month: “Sudsorian Calendar.”  n. The calendar used on soap operas that allows one day's events to be stretched over a three-week period.--"Unexplained Sniglets of the Universe," Rich Hall and Friends

--Morning in America:  Church attendance is way down, the prison population is way up  . . . and people are still sneaking into the Express Lane with more than 12 items. (Which of these problems is easiest to fix? Not so sure it would be the third one.)

--jimjustsaying's Product of the Month (from the Make Life Easier catalog):  Birdbath Protector, which uses "natural plant enzymes to break down organic contaminants. . . . Birds will love it . . . and so will you. So go green and keep your birdbath clean!"  (Just the thing for that hard-to-shop-for person on everyone's Christmas gift list.)

--Redundancy patrol: “Collaborate together,” "continue on,"

"see what happens in the future."

--What's the difference between a proverb, an axiom and an adage?

--What do butterflies get when they're nervous?  Gorillas?

--Why do we keep naming sports teams after the same animals--lions, tigers, wolves, eagles, bears . . . .? Show me a team that calls itself the Rhesus Monkeys or the Gaboon Vipers and they've got themselves a season ticketholder for life!

--If you've seen one nuclear war, you've seen them all."--College dorm graffito.

--"I'm sorry my karma ran over your dogma."--Pizza parlor graffito, Berkeley, Cal.

--Never trust a man with a pocket watch, an ascot or a manicure.  Especially if he's carrying a "man bag."

--So it turned out some of Subway's foot-longs aren't really a foot long.   I guess someone outed them to the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Sandwiches

--Art-ifacts:  In the early 20th Century, the "Mona Lisa" was receiving so much fan mail that it had its own mailbox at the Louvre.

--If a cow could laugh, would milk come out its nose?  (Probably not--unless it was a horse laugh.)

--Remember when you went to buy orange juice and didn’t have 37 choices confronting you?  Lots of Pulp, Some Pulp, No Pulp, From Concentrate, Not From Concentrate, Fortified with Calcium, Fortified with Vitamins D and E, Low Acid and more. (Not labeled just yet: Toxic and Non-Toxic!)

--Do they sell Quilted Southern toilet paper in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi . . .?

--"Wanting to meet an author because you like his books is like wanting to meet a duck because you like pate."--Margaret Atwood, quoted in NYTimes.com.

--Cultural note:  I did a double-take when I skimmed the concert listings in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and saw The Milwaukee Symphony was going to play the music of Led Zeppelin.  What's next: "The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Plays Rachmaninov . . . "?

--Musical note:  Tennessee has eight--count 'em--Official State Songs.  New Jersey?  None.  (Kind of hard to work into a conversation, but there you have it.)

--She said it: "I'm tired of all this nonsense about beauty being only skin deep.  That's deep enough.  What do you want, an adorable pancreas?--Author Jean Kerr to the Columbia, Mo., Daily Tribune

--He said it: “It's a rare person who wants to hear what he doesn't want to hear."--Dick Cavett

--“The motorcycle driver was transferred to Hartford Hospital because of the need for brain specialists. Authorities said he had a severed head injury.”—Hartford (Conn.) Courant via “Still More Press Boners,” by Earle Tempel

--Another sign of Profit First, Customers Last:  Parking lots that are about five years overdue for re-striping of boundary lines. 

--Faded Words: "riffraff," "skedaddle" and "shindig."

--Waiter: "Ground pepper on your salad?"  Me: "No, but I wouldn't mind a little more rata in my touille."

DRUDGING AROUND:  Scientists accidentally created a six-legged mouse with no genitals . . . Futuristic car where drivers SLEEP while driving . . . Farmers dump sheep killed by wolves in front of Swiss government building . . . Chipotle worker shot in guacamole dispute . . . New Yorkers turn to self-defense classes as punching attacks continue . . . Six-legged gazelle spotted in Holy Land . . . Teen girls confront deepfake nudes in schools . . . Man commits suicide by snake after having his deadly cobra bite him . . . Apple Vision users suffer black eyes, headaches and neck pain . . . Priest jailed after man collapses after too many erectile drugs at cleric’s sex party . . . Flight diverted after dog poops in first-class aisle . . . With pets becoming family, bereavement leave gains steam . . . Why Ozempic could change whole personality:  “May warp brain” . . . Woman calls 911 over buying bad batch of meth . . . Feminism has left middle-aged women single, childless and  depressed . . . Why lesbians women die younger than straight women.  (Thanks as always to Matt Drudge and his merry band of aggregators.)

--Is it just me or are magazines getting more and more impossible to read?  You've seen it--microscopic, light-shaded type--often on pale/pastel backgrounds, surrounded by oceans of white space that could be better utilized to enlarge the type and enhance readability.  And who needs full-page head shots of people we've seen dozens of times?  Why not use that space to make the words you're so proud of actually readable?

--Adage updated: It's the gift that counts.

--Three fruits most people have never eaten:  Persimmons, guavas and kumquats.

--Is there low-fructose corn syrup?  If not, the world is waiting.

--The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write.  It will be those who cannot learn, unlearn and re-learn.”--Alvin Toffler in “Future Shock.”

--It’s a tossup as to who gets lied to the most—doctors or policemen.  (“Yeah, doc, I have a drink once in a while before dinner, but that’s about it.” “No, officer, there’s nothing in the car you need to be concerned about.”)

--Nature can be cruel (or Life Isn't Fair, Exhibit No. 292):  People can eat dog food and live to tell about it; chocolate can be fatal to dogs. 

--Speaking of Man’s Best Friend:: TV news reporter gaffe (Lifetime Achievement Award):  "At that point, police decided to bring in canine dogs to help locate the suspect . . . ."

--Health term of the week: We’ve all heard of GERD, but now there’s NERD (Non-erosive reflux disease): Chronic heartburn with no evidence of acid damage in the esophagus.

--Snack food product that doesn't exist but some day probably will:  Dorachos.

RHETORICAL SPRING CLEANING

I thought I would try to exorcise all of the demonic cliches, vogue phrases and shopworn metaphors, etc., that somehow lie deep within me or are virtually unavoidable on- or offline or wherever and get them out of my system with the following three paragraphs in hopes that my literary house will be blessedly in order for the rest of the year.

Let’s talk turkey and get down to brass tacks--it’s a jungle out there, and it’s time to grab the bull by the horns. We’ve got a lot on our plates because the movers and shakers keep moving the goal posts instead of leveling the playing field, while the rest of us are forced to employ a multitasking mind-set while fighting a never-ending learning curve, no matter how much we ramp things up to the next level. So all we can do going forward is hit the ground running, play hardball when we have to step up to the plate, and at the end of the day, pick all the low-hanging fruit—even if it isn’t apples to apples.

Before we try reinventing the wheel, we’ve got to eyeball our optics to see where the rubber meets the road, no matter what the price point is—assuming we’re all on the same page. We’ve got to build a better mousetrap, or we’ll be behind the 8-ball. If we think Plan A is actionable, we can run it up the flagpole and see if the target demographic salutes—if it really moves the needle. If it does, we can put a pin in it. It could be a paradigm shift, and it’s definitelyin our wheelhouse.

Let's face it, the fat cats have us on a market-driven roller-coaster, no matter how much they try to downsize the elephant in the room. So let’s cut to the chase, push the envelope, peel back the layers of the onion, and before the whole ball of wax reaches critical mass, take stock of all the benchmarks, the Big Picture, the whole enchilada and come to the realization that we might have to go back to the drawing board, get granular and think outside the box. But if we play our cards right, burn our candles at both ends and avoid drinking the Kool-Aid, we can get all our ducks in a row. The bottom line? It is what it is!

There, I feel better already. I promise I’ll do my best to keep my prose nose clean, which is not easy, because--after all--the devil is in the details.

--Today's Latin lesson:  Is dico may exsisto recorded pro palaestra voluntas.  ("This call may be recorded for training purposes.")

Special thanks to Joy DeVive, this month’s Popcorn intern.