Friday, April 1, 2022


                                       By Jim Szantor 

Rhetorical questions, questionable rhetoric and whimsical observations

about the absurdities of contemporary life

  • Which is harder: Losing weight or getting off a mailing list? Discuss.
  • A question I’ll never be able to ask--even if I live to be 100: “Whatever happened to Kim Kardashian?”
  • I knew it was just a matter of time (minutes? hours?) before media hacks would slap (no pun intended) a “gate” suffix to the execrable Oscar incident involving Chris Rock and Will Smith. Slapgate! Oh, so clever, and one of the worst lingering effects of one of the worst political episodes in this country’s history is that any occurrence/misstep/gaffe or episode with a scintilla of scandal has to have a “gate” appended to it.
  • It will never end, “thanks” to the high crimes and misdemeanors of one Richard Milhous Nixon. First, a cancer on the presidency, followed by a cancer on the media.
  • Personal note: My former Chicago Tribune feature-writing colleague Bruce Vilanch went on to become a comedy-writing legend. He was a writer and celebrity participant for “The Hollywood Squares” for 20 years and a writer for the Academy Awards for 24 years, 14 of them as head writer. He has dozens of other illustrious credits as well and had a telling comment in an interview conducted before this year’s dog-and-pony show: “If you’re big enough to host the Oscars, you don’t need it!” (Chris Rock apparently didn’t get the memo.)
  • As for jokes made at other stars’ expense (a la Rock/Jada Pinkett Smith), Bruce recounts this incident:
  • “I remember calling Elizabeth Taylor because we had an Al Pacino [joke at her expense]. Al had lost seven times. Billy [Crystal] was going to say he’s “heard another man’s name cried out in the night more times than anyone except Elizabeth Taylor.” And so we had to go to Elizabeth to clear the joke. She cleared. She thought it was hilarious. She can’t walk back eight marriages.”
  •  "An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way; an artist says a hard thing in a simple way."--Charles Bukowski
  •  Why are the clothes hooks so often missing inside the fitting rooms at stores and the "facilities" just about everywhere? Are they that fragile or poorly anchored? Or is there a sub rosa black market for public facility door hooks? (“Pssst! This door hook once hung in the ladies room at the Le Bistro Elegante! Make me an offer!”)
  • Redundancy patrol: "Arson fire," "end result” and "strangled to death."
  • Along with our crumbling roads and bridges comes another atrocity, the continuing butchering of our language. Latest example: “asks” as a noun! (Press secretary to reporters: “If there are no more asks, that’s it for today.”)
  • Good Lord! Generation X, meet Generation Subliterate. And there is also the jargonesque “get” as a noun, as in “Diane Sawyer’s interview with Toby Twoface was a good get.” Yeech.
  • jimjustsaying’s “You Gotta Be Kidding Me” Headline of the Month: “Lady Gaga to launch free mental health education course.” In other news: Kanye West has been named to the Vatican Youth Council.
  • Sobering but not all that startling statistic: America now has more self-storage facilities than McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger Kings, Starbucks and Walmart’s combined! About 50,000 storage complexes--places to store clothes we'll never wear, spare furniture, stuff we "might use.”
  • Headline: “Aaron Rodgers to return to Packers.”
  • Headline three days later: “Packers ticket prices to rise $4 to $7 per game.” Green and gold? Perfect combination!
  • Memo to all Packers’ fans: Be careful what you wish for, you may get it. You wanted that arrogant, condescending diva of a quarterback to return, and you got him. But since the prices of gas and everyday necessities are plummeting, no problem ponying up for those precious tickets. Lots of room in the typical Cheesehead budget for stuff like that.
  • I can see it now: After all that offseason soap opera drama, all that financial/budgetary/salary cap ju jitsu, don’t be surprised if No. 12 goes down with a season-ending injury in Game 2 or 3 (if not sooner).
  • Speaking of QBs, why are the cameras always focusing on them when they’re OFF the field, on the sidelines, swilling water or (in Rodgers’ case), scowling at an assistant coach or other lackey. It’s the starf*cker syndrome run amok.
  • jimjustsaying Exclusive: They’re still working on an Aaron Rodgers bobblehead, but without success. The head is too big, so the doll keeps toppling over. More on this story as it develops.
  • Which of the Seven Deadly Sins did Socrates consider the worst? Envy. “An ulcer of the soul,” the Greek philosopher called it. (Kind of hard to work into a conversation, but there you have it.)
  • Some friendships, for no particular reason, fade to black. Some just fade to gray, or shades of gray, but fade away they do, alas. (And it’s not always their fault.)
  • Actual fortune cookie message (from Lucky Liu’s, Milwaukee, Feb. 27): “Your ideas are valuable. Share them with others.” (Consider it done, lucky Popcorn readers!)
  • Has anyone ever seen Nicole Kidman, Lisa Kudrow and Jennifer Aniston in the same room at the same time? Cameron Diaz and Christina Aguilera? Same person! (And other examples abound!)
  • From a Quora reader (re the apparent “mandate” that Diversity Shall Rule in All Television Commercials):
  • “If I were Black, I would be offended. Very rarely are we shown a successful Black couple in commercials. Very rarely are we shown a successful White couple. They have to be mixed to be happy and well adjusted. I know many successful Black couples and families. We need more all Black and all White; then I can accept all the mixed races and sexes as well. It’s just not well balanced.”
  • Believe it or not, one commercial put a White grandmother with all Black grandchildren. Discuss.
  • Companies, it seems, are paranoid about being accused of racism, so they purposely make commercials that show nothing but racially mixed families. In reality, about 10 percent of all marriages are interracial. In commercials its about 90 percent. And it’s always a White couple with Black children, but never the other way around.
  • “My fake plants died because I did not pretend to water them.”--Mitch Hedberg
  • Now that the cultural abomination of "gender reveal" parties is proliferating, why not go one step further and start holding "demise reveal" parties. Such as:
  • “Dear friends: Will Orville Wockenfuss decide to be buried or be cremated? Join us for the Big Reveal at 4 p.m., Sunday Aug. 13 at the Riverside Theater. Regrets only.”
  • I’m having car trouble: Something’s wrong with one of the bells and two of the whistles!
  • "Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you."--Pericles
  • jimjustsaying’s Media Words of the Month (words no normal person ever uses but are encountered frequently in news reports or commentaries): Inveigle, imbroglio and presumptive.
  • "Be yourself; everyone else is taken."--Oscar Wilde
  • Actual Consumer Warning on an Actual Product: On a package of Fisherman's Friend throat lozenges: “Not meant as substitute for human companionship.”
  • All-Overrated Club: Steve Harvey, Steven Seagal and Stephen Colbert.
  • Overheard: “A recent study has found that women who carry a little extra weight live longer than the men who mention it.”
  • jimjustsaying’s Party Ice-Breaker of the Month: “Say [actual partygoer’s name here], did you know that the vertical groove extending from the bottom of your nose down to the top of your upper lip is called the "philtrum”? (Its depth, length and width can be used in facial readings to derive certain characteristics; supposedly, a wide philtrum indicates luck.)
  •  "Surviving at the punch bowls were Mrs. Ferguson and Mrs. Pritchard."--The Roanoke (Va.) Times, via “Still More Press Boners,” by Earle Tempel.
  •  jimjustsaying’s “Hollywood Has No Shame” Revelation of the Month: Filmmakers are churning out so many sequels that they aren’t even bothering to change the names anymore, the Wall Street Journal reports.
  • “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” released last month, is a sequel to 1974’s “Texas Chain Saw Massacre” and shouldn’t be confused with the 2003 remake “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” Last year’s “Suicide Squad” is a sequel to 2016’s “Suicide Squad.” The 2019 “Shaft” is a sequel to the “Shaft” released in 2000. (I guess when you treat the public with contempt and are creatively bankrupt, any old name will do. Why change the name when the plot and the outcome are basically the same?)
  • jimjustsaying’s Newspaper Obituary Headline Nickname of the Month: “Half-Pint.” As in, Richard J. “Half-Pint” Sweeney, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 20, 2022.
  • Drudging Around: Harvey Weinstein busted for smuggling MILK DUDS into jail . . . Bronx bishop uses rap to draw faithful . . . Human heads stolen in Denver . . . Inside world’s first human composting facility . . . Road to table: Wyoming’s new app for claiming roadkill . . . Woman shot to death in fight over bowling ball . . . 70 degrees warmer than normal in Antarctica; scientists are flabbergasted . . . Teacher fired after outburst caught on video. “Done playing with you idiots.” . . . Deer leaping to their deaths off bridge . . . Scientists slam door on “heath benefits” of alcohol . . . Paralyzed man’s first words using brain transplant: “I want beer.” . . . Study: Length of fingers predicts how sick you’ll get with Covid . . . Positive drug tests of workers at two-decade high . . . Army leader led child porn ring, risked U.S. security . . . “Love hormone” turns fierce lions into kittens . . . Robot dog barks Covid safety instructions in China . . . STUDY: You eat a credit card’s worth of plastic each week, and it’s altering your gut. (Thanks as always to Matt Drudge and his merry band of aggregators for this month’s “truth is stranger than fiction” collection.)
  • Did you know that there's no free lunch (or breakfast, brunch, or dinner) for the First Family? All presidents and their families have to pay for their own food, dry cleaning, toothpaste, and other incidentals while in office; they're billed at the end of the month. There's no charge, however, for food served at White House state functions--the taxpayers take care of this. (Think of what Donald Trump’s Big Mac bill would have been?)
  • jimjustsaying's Word That Doesn't Exist But Should: “Flirr”: n. A photograph that features the camera operator's finger in the corner.--"Sniglets," Rich Hall and Friends.
  • Book titles that don't quite make it (via Salman Rushdie's essay on Christopher Hitchens in "Vanity Fair's Writers on Writers," a book I highly recommend):
  • "A Farewell to Weapons," "For Whom the Bell Rings," "To Kill a Hummingbird," "The Catcher in the Wheat" and "Nurse Zhivago."
  • That inspired jimjustsaying's Song Titles That Don't Quite Make It," such as: "The Lady is a Bum," "All the Items You Are," "How Deep is the Cesspool?," "On the Cul de Sac Where You Live," "Back Home Again in South Dakota," “Moon Lake” and "Here’s That Sunny Day."
  • Today’s Latin Lesson: Commodo exspecto populus futurus sessio. ("Please wait for hostess to be seated.")




Opening Day nuggets for diehards and casual fans alike

  • Baseball Card PRANK FOR THE AGES: The picture on California Angels infielder Aurelio Rodriquez’s 1969 baseball card is actually a photo of Angels batboy Leonard Garcia, who duped the Topps photographer. (Find this card, make big bucks!)
  • My question:  How many other imposter cards got out there undetected?
  • Rogue cards abound, with players intentionally throwing with the wrong hand (or photo negatives inadvertently flopped, essentially doing the same thing).
  • An example closer to home: Did you know that the 1957 Topps card for the Milwaukee Braves’ Hank Aaron card is also an error on the card company?  The right-handed slugger is shown batting as a "lefty" due to a reversed negative. The card was never corrected. 
  • Quiz Time:  I was the last pitcher Babe Ruth faced (1935) and also the first pitcher Jackie Robinson faced in a Major League game (1947).  Who am I? (Answer below)
  • Once baseball starts, why don’t they put the “coaches' boxes” where the coaches actually stand? For whatever reason--not to be clobbered by line drives?--they are rarely anywhere close to them.  (Same goes for the batters who seem to remove the batter's box outlines with impunity. Why is this permitted?)
  • Baseball without fans in the stands in the pandemic days was a plus in my book.  Think of all the images we were spared of obese, besotted guys with team logos painted on their naked torsos!  Of all the cheesy, misspelled signs we didn’t have to see . . . not to mention the goofy hats or the sight of “fans” with their heads down on their phones oblivious to the action or taking pictures of their nachos.  (All of the cardboard cutouts seemed to be upstanding grandstand citizens.)
  • Speaking of signs: Sign on the door of the Detroit Tigers visitor’s clubhouse:  No Visitors.
  • I finally got tired of guys treating me like a human TV grid and asking me, “Hey, Jim, when does the Brewers game start?”  My stock answer now:  All games—home, road, day, night. East Coast, West Coast, United States or Canada—start at the same time: When the umpire says “Play ball!”  (And I say it in a tone that invites no further discussion.) 
  • Rationale:  If it’s raining hard enough, the game may start an hour or two later than whatever the TV grid or Sports section says.  So I’m going with the umpires!
  • San Francisco Giants infielder Tito Fuentes on a Dodgers-Giants beanball war: “Man, they shouldn’t be throwing 90 mph fastballs at my head!  I mean, I’m the father of five or six kids!”
  • “Rome wasn’t born in a day!”—Former Milwaukee Braves shortstop Johnny Logan
  • Quiz answer:  I’m Johnny Sain, as in “Spahn and Sain and pray for rain” fame.
  • Gaffes and goofs in the broadcast booths:
  • “I neglected to say something last night that bears repeating.”—California Angels broadcaster Ron Fairly
  • “ . . . and on this very beautiful Father’s Day afternoon, I’d like to wish all the dads out there a very Happy Birthday.”—New York Mets broadcaster Ralph Kiner
  • ·         “Winfield goes back to the wall. He hits his head on the wall and it rolls off! It’s rolling all the way back to second base. This is a terrible thing for the Padres.”—San Diego announcer Jerry Coleman (former Yankee infielder and World War II fighter pilot who flew 57 bombing missions against the Japanese, so we have to cut him some slack about his many bloopers).
  • Coleman again: “On the mound is Randy Jones, the left-hander with the Karl Marx hairdo.”
  • My favorite baseball player nicknames bestowed by ESPN’s Chris (“Boomer”) Berman:  Albert “Winnie the” Pujols, Bert “Be Home” Blyleven, Odibe “Young Again” MacDowell, Doyle “Brandy” Alexander, Jay “Ferris” Buhner, Dave Burba “Shave,” Andy “Merchant of” Benes and, a controversial one, Kevin “Large Mouth” Bass.  (That one was short-lived when Black fans protested the monicker)
  • Can’t resist—more Jerry Coleman: “There’s someone warming up in the Giants bullpen, but he’s obscured by his number” . . . “Rich Folkers is throwing up in the Padres bullpen” . . . “Steve Boros is not at the game today because of his daughter’s funeral.  Oh, wait—it’s her wedding.  Sorry.” . . . “If Pete Rose extends his hitting streak, they’ll be throwing babies out of the upper deck in Cincinnati!”  . . . “Foster has 19 home runs; one more and he’ll be in double figures” . . . “Sunday is Senior Citizens Day.  So if you want to be a Senior Citizen, just call the Padres ticket office.” . . . “We started the game with 53,00 people.  Half are gone, but surprisingly, most are still here.” . . . “That noise In my earphones knocked my nose off, and I had to bend over to find it.” . . . “There’s two heads to every coin.”  “Hi, folks—I’m Jerry Gross. Oops, no I’m not—I’m Jerry Coleman.” . . . “When you lost your hands, you can’t play baseball!”
  • Amazing baseball oddity:  The first World Series to end with a home run (by the Pirates’ Bill Mazeroski against the New York Yankees in 1960, Game Seven) featured one distinction that will never be equaled (and never happened in a World Series game prior to that day), to wit: NO STRIKEOUTS in the game by either side. A 10-9 game with 24 hits and 1 error and played in a snappy 2:26, which is about the halfway point in most Yankees-Red Sox games these days.
  • Local note: A key moment occurred in the 8th inning when Yankees shortstop Tony Kubek, a Milwaukee native, was hit in the throat by a double-play grounder and had to leave the game.
  • As a result, the Pirates went on to score five runs in that inning.  A veritable turning point for the ages! Without that mishap, it’s doubtful anyone remembers Bill Mazeroski, nor would he be in the Hall of Fame. 
  • No matter who is playing these days, you can’t help but notice the nonstop sponsoring salvos, as in: “Let’s set the Pepsi defense for you.”  “This pitching change is brought to you by Jiffy Lube.”  And “Ryan Braun drives in another Badger Mutual Insurance run.”
  • Just once, I’d like to hear this: “Bob Uecker’s between-innings bathroom visits are br s Contemporary Latin Lesson: ought to you by Quilted Northern, the official toilet tissue of Major League Baseball.”
  • Today’s Contemporary Latin Lesson: Quod tempus non ipsum tincidunt? (“What time does the game start?”)

Compiled by Jim Szantor