Wednesday, May 9, 2018

CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENTS

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

--"Джим - забавный парень, но он не Яков Смирнов!" (Jim's a funny guy, but he's no Yakof Smirnoff!  Nyet!")--Vladimir Putin
--"Я думаю, мы могли бы использовать такого парня, как Джим."  (I think we could use a guy like Jim!)--Sergey Kislyak, Russian ambassador to the United States.
--"He's from this country, Mexicans don't read him, so that's good enough for me."--Donald Trump
--"The one thing I didn't delete from my private server."--Hillary Clinton
--"Jimaschizzle!"--Calvin Cordozar Broadus, Jr. (aka Snoop Dogg)
--"The one thing I DO read!"--Sarah Palin
--"The most fun you can have with your clothes on (but DO take a shower afterwards)."--Dick Cavett

jimjustselling . . .


(Actually, I'm not, but the good folks at HenschelHAUS are. And they're now offering FREE SHIPPING IN THE CONTINENTAL U.S. 
https://henschelhausbooks.com/product/lol-i-gags/


The book is also available at:

POPCORN

By Jim Szantor

Rhetorical questions, questionable rhetoric and whimsical observations about the absurdities of contemporary life
  • I'm old enough to remember when the only privacy notice you'd ever encounter was a Keep Out sign.
  • If the NBA season is going to last until June, why don't they play where all the NBA wannabes play--outdoors?
  • Donald Trump's shifting narratives on the Stormy Daniels soap opera recalls a remark once made by American journalist John Gunther: "He was trying to save both his faces."
  • Who would have thought that one day a president who had a dalliance with a porn star would see his approval ratings rise?  (But hey, at least she wasn't a Russian porn star.) 
  • Asked if they'd have sex with Donald Trump, 90 percent of American women said, "Never again!"
  • When enemies of the U.S. are discussed, no one ever mentions Switzerland. But if there were no such thing as those infamous "Swiss bank accounts," how much of a game-changer would that be for U.S. coffers?  (Along with other "off-shore" maneuvers and the equally fabled "underground economy" . . . .)
  • While some of us observed Earth Day, in parts of Florida another day was observed:  Sinkhole de Mayo.
  • "Some people become so expert at reading between the lines that they don't read the lines."--Mystery writer Margaret Millar
  • jimjustsaying's Party Ice-Breaker of the Month:  "Say [actual partygoer's name here], did you know that at Spearfish, S.D., the mercury rose 49 degrees--from minus 4 to 45--in two minutes on Jan. 22, 1943?"
  • Slang terms you never hear anymore (unless spoken by someone born "many moons ago"):
  • "Daddy-o,"  "See you later, alligator," "made in the shade," "knuckle sandwich," "passion pit," "cool cat," "gimme some skin," "bread" (as in money), "gag me with a spoon"  and "have a cow."  (The replacements are sure to be as lame and as fleeting.)
  • Why is it that companies can take your credit card info over the phone and process it in two minutes  or less but can't process a refund for six to eight weeks?  (Most likely because they want to take that long to figure out a way to decline the refund.)
  • For baseball fans only: Shouldn't Tommy John should get a royalty every time "Tommy John surgery" is mentioned or performed?  (You know you're way down on the major-league club's organizational depth chart when the team has your Tommy John surgery performed by Tommy John!)
  •  When is the last time you saw a Wanted poster at the post office?  Are they telling us (a) that everyone evil has been rounded up or (b) that they've essentially thrown in the towel?  Do criminals ever feel Unwanted because of this?  Is there a support group for them?
  • Today's Media Words (words you encounter in newspapers or TV/radio newscasts but never heard an actual person use in real life):  Quell, quash,  ire and ardor.
  • Thinking outside the box:  What if "they" ultimately discovered that radiation is good for us!  It took the so-called experts eons to reverse course on the egg and determine that it "isn't the cholesterol villain we once thought it was.  Eat all you want."  I think the egg has been around much longer than nuclear radiation.  So there's still time.
  •  (The egg is but one example of FDA/medical  flip-flopping.  That said, I applaud the effort to get things right, no matter how poorly it may reflect on earlier pronouncements.)
  • Redundancy patrol: "Enter in," "barred out of . . .," "for free."
  • Memo to managers of grocery (and other) stores with shopping carts:  How about taking them aside and doing a little wheel maintenance once in a while?  Turn them upside down and give 'em the once-over. A little bolt tightening and a little lubrication (WD-40?) would probably do wonders for those oh-so-wobbly wheels.  Replace as needed.  Rinse/lather/repeat.
  • Wobbly, sticking wheels just irritate the customer, so you would think more attention would be paid in this area.  Yet another example of corporate blind spots or indifference; if they think of this at all, they don't see such maintenance as contributing to the bottom line, therefore why bother? (And they wonder why "profit margins" are down.  It's the little things,  folks.)
  • Who would have thought that one day Bill Cosby, Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose would someday eclipse Roman Polanski on the pariah scale?
  • jimjustsaying's Word That Should Exist But Doesn't:  Execuglide.  v.  To propel oneself about an office without getting up from the wheel-equipped chair.
  • Newspaper Obituary Healine Nickname(s) of the Month:  Rip, Poosie and Pooz.  As in Leland A. "Rip," "Pooz," "Poosie" Pacey, Kenosha (Wis.) News, April 3, 2018.  R.I.P., Mr. Pacey.
  • Today's Latin Lesson:  Non habemus ad vos non tetri idem.  ("We don't have to show you no stinkin' badges.")

THE QUOTE RACK

Discovery of a new organ

A vast network of fluid-filled channels that surrounds muscle and lines the digestive, respiratory and urinary tracts may be a previously undetected human organ, known as the interstitium, say scientists at New York University Langone School of Medicine.  The researchers believe that this newly found structure, which appears to be an "open, fluid-filled highway," serves as an internal shock absorber for other organs and also plays a major role in the immune system.  

Interstitial fluid is the source of lymph, which dispatches white blood cells to fight infections.  The interstitium could help explain how cancer cells spread throughout the body.  "Once they get in, it’s like they’re on a water slide," the study’s co-author, Neil Theise, tells NewScientist​.com.  "We have a new window on the mechanism of tumor spread."  The interstitium holds about 20 percent of all the fluid in the human body, but it has evaded detection until now since tissue samples are typically dehydrated before being examined under a microscope.  More research is needed to understand its role and determine whether it is indeed a distinct organ.  Either way, Theise says, this discovery may lead to "a significant reassessment of anatomy affecting every organ of the body."



--The Week
Reform without substance
In January, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, and Jamie Dimon shook corporate America when they announced they were "putting their heads together to solve America’s health-care problem."  Their firms--Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase--would establish an independent company, free from profit-making incentives, to develop technology-based health-care solutions.  Nearly three months later, their big initiative is "already bogged down in blather."  A

An update from Dimon to shareholders suggests the group is focused "on exactly the wrong issues." They intend to study how much is spent on health-care waste, administration, and fraud, Dimon said--a "revealing" admission since those things are trotted out "whenever you have nothing else to say."  They also want to develop better wellness programs and figure out why some expensive drugs are "over- and underutilized," platitudes that are at once both "vacuous" and vague.  The truth is "there really is no health-care cost mystery."  The way to keep costs low is by restricting the price of doctor and hospital visits and of prescription drugs--something the rest of the developed world has already figured out.  Dimon says the group will report its progress in "coming years."  Sounds to me like they are already "trying to tamp down expectations.


--Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times
Ignore the yo-yo market
If you’re trying to make sense of the market, good luck to you.  Talking heads grasp for rational, understandable explanations for why stocks rally wildly one day and sink sharply the next.  They won’t find them.  Today, most stock trading is automated and computer-driven, programmed to feed off of changes elsewhere in the market.  So upward and downward moves tend to be steeper and more sudden than they used to be as computerized trading programs chase each other around.  This means it’s more important than ever for amateur investors like me to pay no attention to daily market moves. 

Take the first three days of [a recent week], which were a perfect example of why you shouldn’t buy or sell precipitously.  On Monday the market plummeted on fears of President Trump’s trade war. "Pessimism reigned." On Tuesday, the market bounced back.  Then Wednesday morning, the Dow plunged more than 2 percent at opening, but by close had recovered its big Monday losses and then some.  Analysts who had been warning of a "correction" and even a "looming market collapse" were now crowing about a rally.  Please.  "I don’t know where the markets go from here--no one knows.  But I know that with the market getting more extreme and unpredictable, this is a good time to stay calm.


--Allan Sloan, Washington Post
The price of procrastination

Procrastinating on financial matters can cost you big in the long run.  Many Americans struggle with the pressure of planning for retirement, drafting a will or developing a savings plan.  Some are gripped by the fear of making a mistake, while others are intimidated by not knowing how to proceed.  Delaying some matters can be especially costly.  One of the worst financial behaviors is paying only the minimum on your credit cards, thinking that you will eventually ramp up payments.  Compounding interest will just sink you further in debt. There’s also no better time than now to make sure that you have enough savings to cover three to six months’ worth of expenses and to get serious about retirement.   Even individuals who start late with retirement planning can make headway if they just get going.

--Russ Wiles, AZCentral.com
Where Amazon is vulnerable

Is Amazon heading for world domination, or cruising for a bruising?"  After "blowout" first-quarter results--$1.6 billion in profit, more than double the haul Amazon reported a year ago--market pundits are predicting the $763 billion e-commerce giant could soon be "the world’s first trillion-dollar company."  It’s not a stretch.  For Amazon to get there, its share price would need to rise another 30 percent, and it has already notched a 33 percent gain this year.  But while there’s plenty of evidence to support the "prevailing narrative" that Amazon is unstoppable, there’s also overlooked data indicating major vulnerabilities.  The company only pockets 1.7 cents from each $1 of sales, which doesn’t leave much margin for error.

Then there’s global Prime membership: Amazon’s recent revelation that it has 100 million members was widely regarded as "astonishing."  But market estimates had pegged U.S. membership alone at 90 million, so in that light, the total could be "interpreted as a disappointment, not an achievement."  Finally, Amazon Web Services, which has been a profit powerhouse, is also facing sustained competition.  The business landscape is littered with the bones of companies whose positions once seemed unassailable.   We’d do well to look for signs that Amazon euphoria is feeding on itself.


--Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times
The long shadow of the financial crisis
The same kind of collapse isn’t likely; banks are no longer saddled with a massive amount of subprime housing debt.  But if a different kind of debt crisis does emerge, the lingering damage from the last crisis has left the government ill prepared to confront it.  The Federal Reserve has only begun to raise interest rates again after cutting them to near zero during the recession.  It could be years before they return to pre-crisis levels, leaving the central bank with few tools to stimulate the economy in another crisis.  

Congress and the president would also be hard-pressed to respond:  Although the Wall Street bailouts eventually were paid back, they were so politically toxic that it’s hard to imagine another round of them. 

"The biggest regret I’ve got is that life is going to be much more difficult for any regulator sitting in the seats facing another crisis, because what we did was so unpopular," said Hank Paulson, who was Secretary of the Treasury under George W. Bush. "I stand guilty of not being able to explain why the financial system was good for Americans.
--The Week
Freezing the 'hunger nerve'
Diets often fail as long-term solutions for many people trying to lose weight.  But new research suggests that freezing the so-called hunger nerve could suppress hunger and be an effective new treatment for those struggling with obesity.  When the stomach is empty, a branch of the vagus nerve called the posterior vagal trunk kicks into action, sending hunger signals to the brain.  Guided by CT scan images, researchers used a probe to freeze this nerve in 10 obese women and men, with the aim of dampening its signal.   "We’re not trying to eliminate this biological response, only reduce the strength of this signal to the brain," the study’s lead author, David Prologo, tells ScienceDaily​.com.  The preliminary results of the study suggest the nerve-freezing procedure may do just that. None of the subjects experienced side effects, but all of them reported feeling more satisfied and less hungry 90 days later.  They also slimmed down.  On average, the subjects lost 3.6 percent of their body weight and experienced a 13.9 percent drop in their body mass index (BMI).  The researchers say their findings must be confirmed with larger, long-term studies.



--The Week

THE LINK TANK

Privilege is real . . .
. . .  but being a white man shouldn't disqualify me
https://s2.washingtonpost.com/5b7380/5ad5ccbafe1ff668a04c9ed6/amJvb2s4QHlhaG9vLmNvbQ%3D%3D/26/79/25d5cf3f10e915a36e3d86b990d2a598


Trump's message to Syria is muddled
The U.S. was right to penalize Assad, are we  sending the Syrian president and his Russian patrons a coherent message?

https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/04/syria-strikes-trump-administration-message-unclear/https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/04/syria-strikes-trump-administration-message-unclear/

Why North Korea will give up its nukes
Kim's country is entering a new era
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/theworldpost/wp/2018/05/01/kim-jong-un/

jimjustplaying

THE SOCRATIC METHOD?

As Socrates famously wrote, "The unexamined life is not worth living." One would well posit  that the unchallenged life is not worth living.  Or, if it is,  not as satisfying.

Most of my music-related activity since leaving the Air Force Band in late 1969 has been as an author and critic, my playing restricted solely to playing along with records at home.

Soloist Jim Szantor as lead alto David Bixler gives the cutoff on the final chord.

But that changed on Aug. 11 when I performed as a guest soloist on clarinet with the fabled Birch Creek Jazz Orchestra, a big band made up of some of the best jazz players in the country, comprising as they do the faculty that teaches the students who come to Egg Harbor in Door County for two-week sessions of intensive training and performance opportunities.  It's sort of a musical boot camp but with kindly but highly decorated instructors.  

My feature spot was "Ballad for Benny" a tune written by the late, great jazz composer and saxophonist Oliver Nelson, who was commissioned by Benny Goodman to write new material for the band's historic 1962 tour of the Soviet Union.   It was such a  significant cultural/political event back then that Walter Cronkite often led the CBS Nightly News with the band's latest exploits.

The 17-piece Birch Creek Jazz Orchestra prior to my introduction.


This tune was recorded by the Oliver Nelson Orchestra (with the great Phil Woods in a rare outing on clarinet instead of his usual lustrous alto sax) but never performed publicly in this country--till now.  If you do an internet search on some of the illustrious players in the band behind me --Dennis Mackrel, Clay Jenkins, Doug Stone, David Bixler, Tanya Darby, to name a few--you'll see why I'm so proud to have been selected to perform with them.


Part of the evening's program.
It was an oppressively muggy night (close to 100 percent humidity) in the un-air-conditioned hall, making intonation more of a challenge than usual. It took some months of chipping away at the rust that had accumulated over the years on my woodwind chops, but I was determined to have one last dance, so to speak, with the idiom that I have loved for a lifetime.  To paraphrase the late Karl Wallenda of the famed aerial troupe The Flying Wallendas, "Life is the bandstand.  The rest is just waiting."  

Luckily for me, the wait is over.



55th High School Reunion Essay


From Red Devils to Gray Devils (or, 73 is the new 61)

By Jim Szantor

It has been a long and winding road that brings the Class of '61 to Reunion Weekend.   A time when we can take our noses out of our devices and communicate the best possible way--face to face.  We've come so far and seen so much, but on this occasion it's all about something that we can never get enough of--living in the moment with people who matter to us.  Some of us may say more to each other this weekend than we did when we were in the same building on a daily basis.  Reunions can be strange that way.

We've gone our separate ways in many ways, but there are bonds that can never be separated, and Mary D. Bradford was a big part of that.  Some of the connections we treasure started before that, some came after.  But we're so fortunate to have them.  There's no app for that.

Our birth dates and graduation dates were bookended by two presidents known mainly by their initials (FDR and JFK), with some of us then sent off to an unpopular war by LBJ.  (OMG!)  Somehow we survived anti-war and race riots, three high-profile assassinations and thought we were living in turbulent times then.  Little did we know.

We've reached the time of our lives when, as is often said, it seems as if we're having breakfast every 20 minutes and a doctor's appointment every 20 days.   And if our waistlines have expanded, so have our vocabularies.  Unfortunately, many of our new  words end in "itis," "oscopy" or "ectomy" (with a few "ograms" thrown in for good measure.)  Some of us are lucky enough to have original factory equipment, but others seem to be doing just fine with replacement parts.  Our mileage may vary accordingly.

Our lives since high school have had similar arcs (higher education, marriage and careers, exhilarating highs and devastating lows, medical battles won and lost), but no two narratives are alike, with their surprising and fortuitous twists, unexpected and unfortunate turns.  We'll talk about them, tell stories--funny and otherwise--we may have told before.  But underneath it all is something strangely and poignantly wistful that is easier to experience than to explain.  A tear or two may flow, but laughter will carry the day.  To borrow a title from my favorite song of those cherished Bradford years, "It's All in the Game."

We'll reminisce about the sweet used-to-be, a time when you could get on a plane without getting undressed, when mosquitoes were occasional nuisances instead of winged assassins, and a Christmas gift might be one of those wildly irresponsible vintage toys of our youth--the chemistry set--the better to conduct home experiments with the ammonium nitrate now prized by rogue terrorists.

Our first cars are quaint relics now (it's cringe-inducing to contemplate how crude and dangerous they really were), but how treasured they were then!  Apples were something we ate; Steve Jobs was just 6 years old on our Graduation Day and hadn't decided to change the world just yet.  Amazon was a river in South America, a tweet was a sound produced by a bird, and Google was the name of a comic-strip character whose first name, if you don't remember it, can be learned if you use his last name to find it, using a device probably within arm's reach.

Culturally, a maverick from Mississippi named Elvis Presley was viewed as outrageous by some as the fabled Generation Gap reared its head, writ large.  No one envisioned such outre performers as Alice Cooper, Madonna and Sid Vicious and others of inexplicable popularity.  Thus, rap and hip-hop aren't likely to be heard at the Chateau on our special night; Snoop Dogg won't be making the playlist.  We'll hear many oldies and savor the memories they conjure up as the sound track of our youth plays on.

We'll survey the years and laugh about the clothes we wore, the "what were we thinking?" misadventures and the gasoline we burned going around in circles downtown.   We took ourselves perhaps too seriously at times but at least took no "selfies."  (And what about that sheepskin we worked so hard to get?  All we got was a piece of paper!   I, for one, still feel cheated and have thus given my graduation an Incomplete.  But that's just me.)

Our graduates include at least two doctors that I know of, perhaps a lawyer or three, but most likely no Indian chiefs.  Scanning the yearbook, some wonderful names pop out--a Jane Eyre and a Thomas Wolfe, whom I dearly hope can come home again.   The Annex may be gone but still stands tall in our memories.  It rained on our scheduled Graduation Day, a happenstance that turned out to be more of a innocuous oddity than an ill omen.

We'll share some of our epic Kodak moments, those occasions when someone was bound to say, "Great Grandma is probably looking down on us with a big proud smile."  (To explore the thought of other moments when Great Grandma was looking down on us is a thought too unsettling to pursue further in this essay, if you get my drift.  Who raises and lowers the celestial curtain?)

Those of us who have moved away can use this occasion to revisit old haunts (the ones that still exist) and scan the crowd for familiar faces (thank God for name tags) and lament the absence of those we fear we may never see again, trying to remember that, as a poet once said, people die but love doesn't have to.  The list of Missing Classmates numbers about 280 and leads one to wonder where those people are, and, if still living, why they have stayed in the shadows.  If by choice, we have to respect that; if for darker reasons, that's most unfortunate.  We may know the circumstances for a few, but for the others--whether they were good friends, casual acquaintances or names we hardly recognize--like a lot of life's mysteries, we may never know.  We can only hope that life has dealt them the best possible hand.

It has been said that the 25th is the best reunion--some liken it to life's mid-term exam--and say they only get sadder after that.  But most marathoners--those lucky enough to remain in the race--feel more exhilaration in the home stretch than they did at the halfway mark.  Granted, we know the trip is not going to last forever, but it's satisfying to toast the milestones we've achieved and humbly acknowledge our good fortune.  And who knows--the way research is advancing on the scourges of cancer and Alzheimer's, in five years 78 may be the new 61.  Let's drink to that!