Monday, August 19, 2019


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

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

jimjustselling . . .

(Actually, I'm not, but the good folks at HenschelHAUS are. And they're now offering FREE SHIPPING IN THE CONTINENTAL U.S.

The book is also available at:


By Jim Szantor

Rhetorical questions, questionable rhetoric and whimsical observations 
about the absurdities of contemporary life
  • My computer came with a built-in sweet tooth.  It always accepts cookies.
  • When's the last time you saw a house with a Ping-Pong table?  As for billiards, the game was associated with seedy "pool halls," then got Yuppified and went the slick and trendy route as "billiards parlors," but now have seemingly disappeared.  (Not a very good bank shot.)
  • If my ground beef has d. coli, does that mean it's safe to eat?
  • jimjustsaying's Drudge Report Headline of the Week:  "Wayne Newton sued over girl's monkey bite at home."  (More on this story as it develops.)
  • Market musings:  Did you know that Dow Jones is actually two people--Charles Dow and Edward Jones?  That the Russell Index (of small-cap stocks) is named after Frank Russell?  And wouldn't we all be better off with Standard and Rich instead of Standard and Poor?  Meanwhile, my neighbor just traded in his Nasdaq for a Nissan.  I think that's what he said.)
  • If you want an accurate short course on the metric system, ask a drug dealer.   I don't know a kilo from a cumquat!
  • Pop culture quiz: How many people over 30 could correctly identify Beyonce, Rihanna, Cardi B, Shakir and Ariana Grande?  I think I can tell Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga apart, but that's about it.
  • Pop culture note II:  Madonna just celebrated her 61st birthday with her kids.  Don't believe the rumors that she busted out of a giant cake in a bustier.   Urban legend!
  • Historical footnote:  The Week, in its July 26 issue, reported that Russia's lunar program fell behind ours when its chief rocket engineer, Sergei Korolev, died in 1966 during a botched surgery for hemorrhoids.  ("Moscow, we have a problem!")
  • “Journalism largely consists in saying ‘Lord Jones is dead’ to people who never knew Lord Jones was alive.”--G.K. Chesterton
  • Why are the "comedians" on cable TV's "Comedy Central" always dressed like the guy who empties your septic tank?
  • It's getting harder and harder to find a good palm reader. (Hmm, I wonder if Consumer Reports has ever  done anything . . . .)
  • Three things I've never done:  Cleaned a fish, field-dressed a deer or had my palm read.
  • At Miller Park in Milwaukee, home of the Milwaukee Brewers, the Polish sausage is running away with the races this year.  Unfortunate, seeing as how I have the Italian in my Sausage Fantasy League.  (But then again, there's still a lot of sausage left to be played. . . .)
  • Baseball should have a Hall of Moments for guys like John Paciorek.  He played just one game in the major leagues (Houston Colt 45s, 1963), but he went 3 for 3, scored 4 runs, drove in 3 runs and also walked twice. 
  • (Why just a one-game career?  He had a bad back, but his day--literally--in the sun is the envy of all who never got even that far.  That is, the rest of us.)
  • And always remember:  Odds are, the star of today's game could well be the first-base coach of tomorrow.
  • Memo to ESPN (or any other station that shows sports footage):  We don't need a busy, sizzling rock beat behind those baseball highlights, what with one or two commentators weighing in with their badinage, along with the crowd noise and, quite often, the bleed-through of the actual game's play-by-play guy.  Sonic overload!   It's superfluous, distracting and annoying.  (And if the play is so perfunctory that someone thinks it needs "punching up," why show it in the first place?)
  • The Law of Unintended Consequences will never be repealed.
  • Sobering note about overtourism from an excellent New York Times story:  In 1960, when the jet age began, around 25 million international trips were taken. Last year, the number was 1.3 billion. 
  • As for the cities that are the major destinations? They are "the same size they were back in 1959, and they’ll probably stay that way,” according to Justin Francis, the chief executive of Responsible Travel, a company that arranges "sustainable" travel for customers. 
  • So if you're anxious to stand for hours in endless queues behind sweaty, selfie-stick wielding tourists, the Disneyfication of Europe awaits you.   You'll be a Facebook or Instagram legend . . . for about 20 seconds.  (The Travel Channel is looking more appealing by the minute.)
  • jimjustsaying's Stupid Actual Product Warning Label of the Week:  On a Swedish chainsaw: "Do not attempt to stop chain with your hands or genitals."
  • Overheard:  "Some people can tell what time it is by looking at the sun, but I've never been able to make out the numbers."
  • Another in jimjustsaying's series of Media Words, words you see only in print or hear only on news broadcasts and never hear an actual person use in everyday life:  "Inveigle."
  • Eighty-fifth Wisconsin Town I Didn't Know Existed Until I Saw It Mentioned in a Green Bay Press-Gazette Obituary:  Underhill, Wis. (R.I.P., Sandra M. Miller, Green Bay Press-Gazette obituary, Aug. 11, 2019).  Previous entries: Athelstane, Walhain, Duck Creek, Breed, Anston, Sobieski, Amberg, Osseo, Angelica, Brazeau, Waukechon, Sugar Camp, Kossuth, Lessor, Kunesh, Pulcifer, Cato, Florence, Greenleaf, Eaton, Poygan, Hofa Park, Hilbert, Hollandtown, Beaufort, Glennie, Harshaw, Bessemer, Crooked Lake, Tigerton, Goodman, Readstown, Dousman, Butternut, Montpelier, Cecil, Red River, Gillet, King, Laona, Kelly Lake, Glenmore, Tonet, Stiles, Morrison, Dunbar, Askeaton, Wild Rose, Neopit, Ellisville, Pickett, Flintville,  Forest Junction, Thiry Daems, Black Creek,  Mountain, Ledgeview, Lunds, Suring, Lakewood, Beaver, Cloverleaf Lakes, Krakow, Pella, Townsend, Vandenbroek, Coleman, Spruce, Armstrong Creek, Lake Gogebic, North Chase, Navarino, Pequot Lakes, Buchanan,  Rio Creek, Humboldt, Mill Center, Carlton, White Potato Lake, Lark, Scott,  Newal,  Biron and Menchalville.
  • Today's Latin lesson: Commodo exspecto populus futurus sessio. ("Please wait for hostess to be seated.")


The ongoing adventures of Florida Man

He is remarkably durable in his ubiquity, his stupidity, his quirkiness, and never at a loss for incredibly obtuse ways of bringing momentary fame, if not crippling injury and a police record (if he doesn't already have one) onto himself.  

As Logan Hill of the Washington Post reports:

Since Florida Man was first defined on Twitter in 2013 as the “world’s worst superhero,” many men (and it’s almost always men) have assumed the mantle. He is a man of a thousand tattooed faces, a slapstick outlaw, an Internet-traffic gold mine, a cruel punchline, a beloved prankster, a human tragedy and, like some other love-hate American mascots, the subject of burgeoning controversy.

Most memes--from planking to Tide Pods--fizzle fast. Florida Man has only grown stronger. There are so many stories about [such] men  that a “Florida Man Challenge” went viral this March, in which millions of people Googled their birth dates and “Florida Man,” finding a near-endless list of real news headlines for all 365 days of the year:

  • “Florida Man Steals $300 Worth of Sex Toys While Dressed as Ninja.”
  • “Florida Man Tries to Pick Up Prostitute While Driving Special Needs School Bus.”
  • “Florida Man Drinks Goat Blood in Ritual Sacrifice, Runs for Senate.”
I’ve laughed at headlines like “Florida Man Arrested for Calling 911 After His Cat Was Denied Entry Into Strip Club.” I’ve gawped at stories like “Florida Man Removes Facial Tattoos With Welding Grinder.” But over the years I’ve also started to get a queasy feeling of complicity when I click on headlines that play up the quirks of horrific crimes for Web traffic, like “A Florida Man Beat His Daughter For 40 Minutes While Listening To Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines,’ ” a 101-word BuzzFeed story that found room to tastelessly embed the supermodel-studded music video.

The meme has grown beyond the inside jokes of Twitter and Reddit, spawning scores of late-night comedy routines, queues of podcasts, multiple band names, an episode of the FX show “Atlanta,” an “X-Files” comic book, a documentary and, soon, a docuseries from the producers of “Get Out.”

At its most comical, the Florida Man phenomenon encapsulates the wildness of both America and the Internet.  At its most salacious, it’s a social-media update on the true-crime TV of “America’s Dumbest Criminals” and the gallows humor of tabloid headlines.  At its most insensitive, Florida Man profits by punching down at the homeless, drug-addicted or mentally ill.  Florida Man has become an American folk hero with all the contradictions of his predecessors, who, from John Henry to Buffalo Bill, were always a mix of what [recently celebrated Florida Man Lane Hatfield]  calls the “half of what happened” and “half of what didn’t.” What those old folk tales and our new viral memes have in common is that they tend to reveal more about the kind of stories we want to share than the people they’re ostensibly about.


Why the Dow still matters
The Dow Jones industrial average may be 123 years old and full of quirks, but it is far from obsolete.   I’ve long had a fondness for this strangely structured index.  Unlike the Nasdaq or S&P 500, the Dow “weights its component stocks by price rather than by market capitalization,” which could produce serious distortions in an index with only 30 stocks.  Furthermore, the “Dow’s membership criteria are, to say the least, vague and generally revolve around reputation and track record.  Decisions are made by a committee of three representatives from S&P and two from The Wall Street Journal, which is owned by Dow Jones   Despite this, the Dow’s average annual return over the past 10 years has been a decent 14.1 percent. The S&P 500? 13.9 percent.
--James Glassman, Kiplinger​.com

Supplements and heart health
Millions of people who take dietary supplements to protect their heart are likely getting no health benefit—and in some cases might be harming themselves. That’s the conclusion of a new meta-analysis of 277 studies, which together included nearly 1 million people, to determine supplements’ effect on cardiovascular health. The researchers found that only a few of the 16 supplements and eight diets tested appeared to do any good.
Omega 3 fatty acids, commonly found in fish oil, appeared to lower the risk of heart attacks and coronary heart disease.  Folic acid was linked with a reduced risk of stroke.  But the evidence for those benefits wasn’t particularly strong.  Vitamin A, B, C, D, and E supplements didn’t appear to help heart health at all; nor did calcium, iron or multivitamins.  Furthermore, researchers found, taking calcium with vitamin D increases the risk of stroke, possibly because it increases blood clotting and hardens arteries.
“People who are taking these supplements for the sake of improving their cardiovascular health are wasting their money,” lead author Safi Khan, from West Virginia University, tells The New York Times.
--The Week

The realistic solution to climate change
Pseudo-scientific hysteria is the wrong answer to climate change.  Democratic presidential candidates are sounding warnings that if the U.S. doesn’t dramatically cut carbon emissions by 2030, it will be too late and the world will become a hellish dystopia.  Climate change is a real problem, but efforts to get rid of fossil fuels have largely failed.  Of the 195 signatories to the 2016 Paris Agreement, just 17 are meeting their modest, self-assigned targets.

Why? Policies to cut carbon are incredibly expensive.  The annual costs of promises in the Green New Deal, for example, would total about $2 trillion, or about $6,400 for every American.  Activists think the only way to sell these costs “is by scaring people silly”—but it’s not working. A new poll found that nearly seven of every 10 Americans oppose spending just $120 each a year to combat climate change. 

The only pragmatic way to address climate change is to pour resources into energy research, to drive down the price of existing renewables and create new energy technologies.  When the alternatives become cheaper than coal and oil, everyone will switch. It is innovation, not hysteria, that will win this battle.
--Bjorn Lomborg, New York Post

Graying of America presents new problems
Cities will need to adjust their infrastructure for older people:  Crosswalk timers will have to be reset to give them more time to get across the street, and far more curb cutouts for walkers and wheelchairs will need to be installed.  The number of homebound, isolated seniors will dramatically rise, contributing to an existing loneliness epidemic. 

The isolation, ironically, will be worse in the sidewalk-less, car-oriented suburbs America created to make Baby Boomer childhoods so utopian.  What happens to tens of millions of suburban residents when they’re 85 and unable to drive or walk to stores, community centers or doctors?  “In the ’60s, a majority of people weren’t living past 70, or 75,” says Hilde Waerstad, research associate with the MIT Age Lab. “We’re entering into this new era that we just have not seen before."

--The Week

Making sure victims don’t survive
Former Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once proposed a huge tax on the most damaging kinds of ammunition, explaining: “Guns don’t kill people, bullets do.”
Recent mass shootings have proved that the late senator was onto something.  In his sick manifesto, the El Paso shooter lovingly explains his choices of an AK-47–style semi-automatic weapon and the 8m3 bullet, which has a cult following because it expands and fragments when it hits human flesh—causing catastrophic wounds.  

In publications such as the NRA’s official journal, Shooting Illustrated, “bullet talk is as revealing a window on American gun culture as gun talk.”  In one ammo review, the writer gives his “thumbs up” to Hornady-brand bullets’ ability to penetrate thick clothing and expand inside the body, causing deep wound cavities.  When this kind of ammo is paired with semi-automatic rifles, which fire bullets at triple the velocity of most handguns, the effects are especially gruesome and lethal.  Surgeons who have treated victims of assault-rifle mass shootings say organs are so badly shredded that there is nothing left to repair. Why are we selling hyperlethal guns and bullets designed and marketed to make sure shooting victims can’t possibly survive?
--Francis Wilkinson,


The 'Disneyfication' of popular travel destinations
Too many visitors are altering the character of historic cities

Why Republicans should ditch the Electoral College
Changing demographics a big game-changer

Field of bad dreams
Were these films supposed to be about baseball?



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!