Wednesday, June 5, 2019

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
  • My next book project: "Bitcoin for Dummies."  (As soon as I de-dummy myself about the subject, that is.   And I should probably finish it before bitcoin falls out of favor or is declared illegal.)
  • Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post referred to the impeachment process as "constitutional hygiene."  (Delousing, perhaps?)
  • All suspects are innocent until the surveillance video is shown on TV.
  • You know, life ain't easy these days.  Not when the movers and shakers keep moving the goal posts instead of leveling the playing field, while the rest of us have to have a multitask mind-set while fighting a never-ending learning curve.  So all you can do is hit the ground running,  play hardball when you have to step up to the plate, and at the end of the day, pick all the low-hanging fruit.  
  • Let's face it, the fat cats have us on an emotional roller-coaster, no matter how much they try to downsize the elephant in the room.  So cut to the chase, and before the whole ball of wax reaches critical mass,  we'll take stock of the benchmarks and the Big Picture and come to the realization that we must go back to the drawing board.  It is what it is.  
  • With the population aging as it is, it's only a matter of time before we have a TV show called "America's Got Geezers."   (Will Ryan Seacrest's grandfather be available?)
  • Take this, TV meteorologists:  Believe it or not, thermometers in the late 1800s provided more accurate readings than the measuring equipment in use today. 
  • Why?  I'm told that the temperature measuring system has a platinum wire resistive device whose electrical resistance varies with temperature.  It’s accurate, but requires maintenance for correct readings.  (Chance of accuracy?  Who knows.)
  • The man:  Adolphe Quetlet.  
  • His occupation:  19th Century Belgian statistician, mathemetician and astronomer.
  • What he did:  Invent the Body Mass Index.  (Kind of hard to work into a conversation, but there you have it.)
  • "100 percent of the people who give 110 percent do not understand math."--Demetri Martin
  • Normally, we hear the Memorial Day weekend traffic death toll.  But thanks to the hordes of Mt. Everest  climbers, we heard a different kind of number. I guess nothing beats the rush of taking a selfie in the Death Zone.  
  • Related tourism madness:  Photos of eight-block-long lines to see the Mona Lisa.  Did you know that in the early 20th Century, the ML was receiving so much fan mail that it had its own mailbox at the Louvre?
  • Jungle justice:  "Rhino poacher trampled by elephants then eaten by lions." (April 7 headline)
  •  jimjustsaying's Party Ice-Breaker of the Week:  "Say [actual partygoer's name here], did you know that a piece of plastic with T’s at both ends used to secure labels in clothing is called a perket.?"
  • Drudging Around:  Gonorrhea May Be Transmitted Through Kissing . . . Couple Films Sex Tape in Driverless Tesla . . . . Average American Hasn't Made New Friend in 5 Years . . .  DIY Coffn Clubs Take Sting Out of Death . . . Cops:  Suspect Had 7 Syringes Hidden in Body Cavity . . . Frat busted for "hazing" dog . . . Study:  Men think about sports more than sex! . . . Navy releases probe in "sky penis" drawing . . .Chimpanzees Spotted Cracking Open Tortoises for Meat . . . The Wildly Popular TV Host Accused of Killing People to Boost Ratings. . . Parents To Buy Celebrity DNA to Customize Kids.  (Thanks to Matt Drudge and his merry band of aggregators for these eyebrow-raising links.)
  • Oy vey! Some cannabis growers in California are paying Jewish rabbis to certify their products as kosher. Because the federal government still considers marijuana illegal, growers cannot apply for labels such as “Organic” or “GMO free.”
  • That’s why growers are asking for kosher certification from rabbinical authorities, said Josh Drayton of the California Cannabis Industry Association. “Folks deserve to know that what they’re consuming is healthy.”
  • Music Appreciation at 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea:  California sea lions have been observed moving in time with complex, changing beats.  And fish were able to differentiate between classical composers, as well as between genres of music.--Psychology Today, March/April 2019 
  • jimjustsaying's Name for Something That Doesn't Exist But Should:  Fitting Persons Bureau:  A registry that should exist (maybe on an overhead TV-like monitor) at department stores because you can't find your wife because she's in the Fitting Room trying on half a dozen things.
  • Headline on Ebola virus story:  "Blanket travel ban ruled out."  (No word yet on sheets and pillow cases.)
  • The answer:  Wampire, Zola Jesus and The Dead Milkmen. The question?  Name three groups that released CDs late last year.   (The temptation to say "Never heard of them" is tempered by the reminder that at one point, no one  had "ever heard of" Elvis Presley or The Beatles. (Not that The Dead Milkmen are destined to attain that level of immortality.)
  • Classified Ad Curiosity of the Month:  In the Wanted to Buy section, "$$$ Cash Paid for Diabetic Test Strips!  Pickup Service Available."   A a head-scratcher if ever there was one.
  • People who wear bow ties on a daily basis or argyle or other garish-type socks are drawing attention to themselves in the worst possible way.
  • jimjustsaying's Obituary Headline Nickname of the Month:  "Weef." As in Steve “Weef ” Lorrig, Green Bay Press-Gazette, May 14, 2019.  R.I.P., Mr. Lorrig.
  • Take some air, some nonfatmilk and milk fat, add sugar, polysorbate 80, some Vitamin A palmitate, along with cocnut oil, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, cocoa and the ever-popular soy lecithin, and you have . . . a Dairy Queen Chocolate-dipped Cone.    (What would we do without Wired magazine's What's Inside feature?)
  • Today's Latin Lesson:   Vos can dico de homine suo, consectetuer adipiscing elit.  ("You can tell a lot about a person by his or her ring tone.") 

THE QUOTE RACK

Mega-farms get a sweet trade bailout
Rich farmers, not mom-and-pop farms, will be the big winners in Trump’s $28 billion tariff bailout.   Soybean exports have cratered, thanks to the China trade war, and pork, corn, grain, and dairy producers are all worried anew, now that the president has announced plans to impose tariffs on Mexican imports.  To cover most of their losses, Trump issued a $12 billion farm bailout last year and an additional $16 billion bailout [recently].  But most of that money will go not to the small holdings that account for 89 percent of American farms, but to large industrialized operations.  Most of them are already major beneficiaries of federal crop support programs that steer billions in subsidies and low-priced crop insurance--including insurance that already covers some of their losses in the trade war.   

Meanwhile, reports from the prairie states indicate that the trade war is driving many small farmers out of business.  Trump tweeted recently that “our great Patriot farmers have been forgotten” for many years.  That’s not true:  U.S. agriculture has been among the most heavily subsidized sectors of the economy.  It’s just that with the tariff bailout, as with other farm subsidies, the biggest payments will go to those  who need them least.
--Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times

Democrats 'big tent' on abortion is no more
2020 candidates are rushing to the left to embrace an expansive view of abortion rights, but the strategy could be a major gamble:   Could it cost them votes come Election Day?  
The leftward move in the Democrats’ messaging on abortion--now led by Kirsten Gillibrand, who has quietly become the abortion-rights trendsetter in the race--is a response to a string of right-wing states that have passed tough restrictions on abortions in recent months, putting the future of Roe vs. Wade on shakier footing.  But plenty of voters in key swing states have more middle-of-the-road views on abortion, which means the strategy for Gillibrand and other Democrats is high-risk, high-reward.
--The Atlantic
Reparations would worsen race relations
Democratic presidential candidates are testing the idea of making reparations for slavery an active issue in the 2020 presidential campaign.  That’s a terrible idea, both politically and practically.  Compensation for slavery is an inviting idea in principle, but it raises so many complex and divisive issues that it would make race relations in America a good deal worse.  Tens of millions of white Americans would insist that their immigrant forebears arrived in the country after slavery ended, and therefore cannot be held responsible for its crimes or its legacy.

Indeed, most people who lived in the U.S. in 1860 did not own slaves.  And who would get the reparations? Everyone with any African-American ancestors, even if they were 98 percent white?  Should wealthy black people--such as Oprah Winfrey or Barack Obama (whose father grew up in Africa)--get reparations, too?  As Americans argued over these issues, it would throw open a trap door out of which all manner of bigotries and bitterness, all the black bats of American history, would fly. 

Unfortunately, the only realistic answer to America’s ugly racial legacy is continued slow progress. No program of reparations can undo the past or heal its wounds.
--Lance Morrow,  Wall Street Journal
Exploding batteries
Lithium-ion batteries can be dangerously flammable, but it’s common to find them selling on Amazon.  That’s where Nicholas Jones purchased what he thought was a replacement battery for his HP laptop in 2016, later to discover that the lithium-ion battery in the laptop sitting next to him had ignited, setting his couch on fire.  More than half the products sold on Amazon are listed by third parties, so batches of lithium-ion cells made in China that don’t pass inspection sometimes end up listed by sellers on Amazon.  In August, Amazon barred the sale of cylindrical lithium-ion cells not designed to be handled by consumers--the kind that have caused the most problem--but The Atlantic had no problem buying eight of them on the site in February.
--Alana Semuels, TheAtlantic​.com

The danger of overhyping 5G
5G mania has swept the wireless industry, regulators and tech enthusiasts--but the hype may be getting ahead of the market demand for it.

Why it matters: The promise of 5G--with mobile broadband speeds up to 100 times faster than current 4G networks-- and the pressure to keep up with global competitors are impacting major merger reviews and city budgets.  But unrealistic expectations for 5G could lead to big disappointments.

Between the lines:  It's always hard to anticipate how and when new technologies will catch on. No one predicted Uber and Airbnb would spring from 4G networks and the smartphone, for example.  When 4G launched, the U.S. wireless market still had plenty of room to grow, and revenue margins were relatively high.  So the telecom industry's promotion of 4G service was more measured and less hyped.

Now the wireless market is mature and has little subscriber growth (around 1%), so telecom companies are searching for ways to wring new revenue from current subscribers.   That has driven the industry to push flashy marketing campaigns to sell consumers on the benefits of 5G.

The bottom line:  "The hype is so preposterously misaligned with economic reality that inevitably there’s going to be this disastrous crash in expectations," said Craig Moffett, founding partner at MoffettNathanson Research.
--Kim Hart, Axios

The new, cruel robot overlords
“It’s time to stop worrying that robots will take our jobs and start worrying that they will decide who gets jobs.  Companies like General Electric and Goldman Sachs routinely cut underperformers.  But that’s less alarming than a recent report in TheVerge.com that Amazon enlists computers that track the productivity of its employees and regularly fire those who underperform. 

We already use artificial intelligence for managerial tasks, such as screening résumés and assigning projects.  Technology is also used by industrial laundry services to log how many seconds it takes to press a laundered shirt, and by major discount retailers to report if the cashier is scanning items quickly enough. So perhaps it was only a matter of time before software was used to fire people.  



The ruthlessness seems to work:  Studies show that hiring and firing employees more aggressively yields faster productivity growth.  But the rising wage inequality doesn’t fully capture how unequal work has become.  The risk of losing a senior job at GE or Goldman is more than compensated for by the reward of stimulating and challenging work and handsome paychecks.  The same can’t be said of employment at industrial laundromats and Amazon warehouses, where work is repetitive, the pay is low and the robot overlords have arrived.
--Greg Ip, Wall Street Journal

THE LINK TANK

Debunking Big Pharma's Big Lie
"Commitment to research' doesn't hold water
https://u1584542.ct.sendgrid.net/mpss/c/BgE/ni0YAA/t.2rn/WrZjLgOETZmjd1DvUKx90A/h4/DFruV08mvN0MyCCrHm-2ByQMQ5CifknFfEziLKVf09YjVsSeF5w-2FY2iLqt2jdMhjG-2BKO6au0-2FUvnydL2FKPjffGFl-2FpycVkJePM4vq6nfoU-2FBMeYDhvr5NZnH7Fszu8RlDM9kk95mozQCP9fj8w-2Fy-2FcgqJ6M2AkGbm9FRk220kVjc48-2BXL4tsMI6LiHDmxuNmOIfjyNIDih29cWj6DJAsLf8qU7vh8YMYNUnlOEXUwN3LUCA11ytp4P7BLBU2ugV0Dw7P4oMOJM3r1mGUC5pkxdFE76mPHcqkW3Hn-2BOsQ8-2F1RKfspS6uPnuHGqxWxBpo7q-2FWyTP-2F2-2Bv6cwHP500ycbRC1hZdVOFQxXuz-2FEUtiOSoG5rxtVsuQPZpQaNwBz-2FTZxGlnyYJg9wpcIXKXJrOp0AULNwthqWmph7VFDOZ-2BTeCV-2Fp7zUQXsYE1sxrQ4WK0thBUD01edCVzDZWsLWfU7eBzHaZmsROZRz40oXyxfUa5-2Bek-2BgwYVJ-2BEeXKpxrvnOHGQK-2F1kVb0ZYnLLJw4Q2GKOdvvhvCZV40O5WkaIoSxerU-3D

Too many people want to travel
Tourist hordes are ruining everything
https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/06/crowds-tourists-are-ruining-popular-destinations/590767/

Do we owe it to ourselves to tune out the news?
Too much information is vying for our attention and threatening our democracy
https://s2.washingtonpost.com/13ab145/5cdbea38fe1ff62d6b3d5717/anNqYXp6QGxpdmUuY29t/32/82/e034c632441cd1939b205c30aad51ebb

The plight of working class whites
GOP policies promise greatness but deliver despair across racial spectrum
https://s2.washingtonpost.com/12b736b/5cc873fcfe1ff65103123096/anNqYXp6QGxpdmUuY29t/44/57/e034c632441cd1939b205c30aad51ebb

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!