Wednesday, June 1, 2022


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 Yakov 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.

The book is also available at:


                                                        By Jim Szantor 

Rhetorical questions, questionable rhetoric and whimsical observations

about the absurdities of contemporary life

  • Green olives, bottles; black olives, cans. Discuss.
  • I’ve never seen a service animal that wasn’t doing an exemplary job. People? Not so much. But their devices are always working overtime.
  • There are no slacker service animals. They’re so skilled, gentle and dedicated that it can move you to tears.
  • Based on what I’m seeing on baseball telecasts, I think it’s high time to revise some of the lyrics to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”: “Buy me some nachos and Cracker Jack, I’ll send you a selfie before I get back, for it’s . . . .” 
  • He said it: “Never belong to a club that would have you as a member!”—Groucho Marx
  • She said it: “No matter how cynical you may become, it’s never enough to keep up!”—Lily Tomlin
  • jimjustsaying’s Fortune Cookie Message of the Month (courtesy of Lucky Liu’s, Milwaukee): “A bit of coin will fall into your wallet this month.” (Whew! For a moment, I thought it said “bitcoin.” Almost got a case of the crypto creeps!)
  • This just in, a Washington Post story titled “Crypto is a solution in search of a problem.” Subtitle: “Crypto is dropping like a rock. Here's why that's a good thing.” (See my Link Tank in for the full story.)
  • Speaking of current trends, check this May 26 headline: “Pickleball Is the Wild, Wild West’: Inside the Fight Over the Fastest-Growing Sport in America”
  • Good Lord! Can’t we do anything in this country without distorting it and contorting it and ruining it? Facebook started as a college’s boy messaging service for “rating girls,” and now it supposedly has become a subversive propaganda vehicle and a threat to our democracy that has come under heavy government scrutiny. Ditto Twitter and that out-of-control billionaire Elon Musk.
  • Whatever happened to Faye Dunaway? (According to recent reports, she’s alive and well and writing a tell-all to “even a few scores.”)
  • jimjustsaying’s Media Word of the Month (a word no normal person ever uses but is often encountered in newspaper headlines and stories): Travails
  • Redundancy Patrol: ATM machine, VIN number, revert back.
  • All Over-Rated Team (in this case, “The G Team”): Whoopi Goldberg, Jim Gaffigan and Greg Gutfeld.
  • Shouldn't public-service ads (or those tag lines at the end of beer commercials) say "Please drive responsibly" instead of "Please drink responsibly"? If you're home alone, I don't much care if you drink irresponsibly (as long as you don't "drunk dial" me!).
  • Memo to magazine publishers: Stop sending me renewal notices six or more months prior to my renewal date. It’s annoying, a waste of paper, and I know full well I’m going to get a better deal if I hold out until the last minute. (But it must pay off for them or they wouldn’t be doing it.)
  • Overheard: “Stay away from ‘still’ people: Still broke, still complaining, still hating, still nowhere.”
  • I just read that the Chicago Police Department has 25 mounted officers and 30 horses. That could mean that right now there are 5 horses running around arresting people all by themselves!
  • A wise man once said that a good work ethic also requires a good rest ethic
  • Two statements that are probably applicable in almost every case or situation: The truth probably lies somewhere in between . . . or there’s probably enough blame to go around.
  • Why can you get brown rice in any grocery store but never in any Chinese restaurant? Discuss.
  • It never fails: My transaction at the post office usually takes about 20 seconds, but the person before me? Must have been trying to send weapons-grade plutonium to North Korea. (Unwrapped, of course.)
  • Vastly underrated life skill: Being able to flawlessly giftwrap a Christmas or birthday present.
  • Most people hate the sound of their own voices, the sight of their own photos or their inability to giftwrap anything.
  • Overheard: “The best way to truly surprise someone at a surprise party is to hold it a week late.”
  • If you’ve never checked the pressure on your spare tire, feel no guilt. Your current car probably doesn’t have one.
  • About the only thing my first car (1954 Chevrolet Bel Air) and my current car (2016 Chevrolet Impala) have in common: No CD player! (CD players in cars lasted about as long as the Sony Mini Disc or the video disc.)
  • Newspaper ad: "You're invited to a Free Gourmet Dinner--Exclusively for Women with Low Thyroid." (Let's see: Tuesday--Mexican night; Wednesday--Stir-Fry Special; Thursday--Low-Thyroid Gals Night Out! Got it!)
  • jimjustsaying’s Newspaper Obituary Headline Nickname of the Month: “Bumpy.” As in, William “Bumpy” Blaser, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 18, 2022. R.I.P., Bumpy.
  • Belated Mother’s Day sentiment, via Canadian author Susan Gale: “Mothers are the glue. Even when you cannot see them, they are still holding the family together.”
  • Drudging around: ‘Dead’ woman bangs on coffin to say she’s alive during funeral . . . Woman investigating dog attack killed by pack of dogs . . . STUDY: Direction your bed faces could be making you sick . . . Shanghai woman lived in phone booth for month . . . Robot chef learns to taste, chew, alter seasoning . . . Oregon law requires menstrual products in boys’ bathrooms? . . . Man dies of heart attack burying woman he strangled . . . STUDY: Psychopaths have bigger brains . . . Calling men “bald” counts as sex harassment, UK tribunal rules . . . City puts limits on how long a dog can bark . . . Arby’s manager seen in video peeing in milkshakes . . . Couple sues only son for not giving them grandchildren . . . Pope’s secret recipe to treat bad knee is tequila . . . Brain-altering parasite makes infected people appear more attractive to others . . . American girls now reaching puberty as young as 6 . . . Invasive jumping worms make way to Calif., worrying scientists . . . Is Happy the Elephant legally a person? Court to decide . . . North Carolina priest ditches job to become gay porn star at 83 . . . Rattlesnake population booming in California . . . They’re hazing bears with paintball guns in Tahoe . . . Rio airport screens show porn. (Thanks as always to Matt Drudge and his merry band of earnest aggregators.)
  • jimjustsaying's Product of the Week: Orcon LB-C1500 Live Ladybugs, Guaranteed Live. Approximately 1,500 Count, $16.00.
  • “When frying chicken, use a frying pan large enough so pieces will fit without crowing.”—Brattleboro (Vt.) Daily Reformer. —“Still More Press Boners,” Earle Tempel.
  • jimjustsaying’s Word That Doesn’t Exist But Should of the Month: “Schlitzstop.” n. The one player in amateur softball games who thinks he can handle his position and a can of beer at the same time. —Unexplained Sniglets of the Universe,” Rich Hall and Friends.
  • I like sweet potatoes--and the beta carotene is a nice bonus. (Frankly, I prefer alpha carotene, but, hey--that's just me! It’s an acquired taste.)
  • Today's Latin Lesson: Haud, muneris, illic nusquam in vehiculum vos postulo ut fatigo super. ("No, officer, there's nothing in the car you need to be concerned about.")
  • Special thanks to Kaye Pasa, this month’s Popcorn intern


It’s time to show the real horror of mass shootings—in pictures!

Nothing will change until we let people see the reality of the carnage!&&p=c9a327fca0c4b9a86bfe4e4061e5e2724a1051c45c6fd0ec9eae2f16acdc5807JmltdHM9MTY1NDEyNDExMSZpZ3VpZD0yZWI5NDBjZS00NTViLTRiZDgtYjNmYy03MGM2OGU4YWNlOWMmaW5zaWQ9NTM3Nw&ptn=3&fclid=e3c988ab-e1fd-11ec-952a-a8c34102a96f&u=a1aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cucGF1bHdlaXNzLmNvbS9wcmFjdGljZXMvcHJvLWJvbm8vcHVibGljYXRpb25zL2l0LXMtdGltZS10by1zaG93LXRoZS1ob3Jyb3Itb2YtbWFzcy1zaG9vdGluZ3Mtc2VjcmV0YXJ5LWpvaG5zb24tYXJndWVzLWluLW9wLWVkLWluLXRoZS13YXNoaW5ndG9uLXBvc3Q_aWQ9NDMyMDg&ntb=1

The old guard has to step aside

Pelosi, Biden, McConnell, Trump: Time to hang up your cleats

Why do we swallow what Big Oil and the Green Movement tell us?

Their tired shibboleths are hurting us economically, environmentally and geopolitically

A solution in search of a problem

Crypto is dropping like a rock.  Here’s why that’s a good thing


America may be broken beyond repair

In an ad released last year, Blake Masters, a leading candidate in Arizona’s Republican Senate primary, cradles a semiautomatic weapon. “This is a shortbarreled rifle,” he said, ominous music playing in the background. “It wasn’t designed for hunting. This is designed to kill people.”

 For Masters, this isn’t an argument against allowing such guns to proliferate. Rather, it’s an acknowledgment of why access to these weapons is, for the right, a matter of existential importance. “The Second Amendment is not about duck hunting,” said Masters. “It’s about protecting your family and your country. What’s the first thing the Taliban did when Joe Biden handed them Afghanistan? They took away people’s guns.”

Guns, in this worldview, are a guarantor against government overreach. And government overreach includes attempts to regulate guns. These days, it’s barely remarkable when Republicans issue what sound like threats against those who’d dare curtail their private arsenals.

“I have news for the embarrassment that claims to be our president — try to take our guns and you’ll learn why the Second Amendment was written in the first place,” Randy Fine, a state representative in Florida, tweeted [recently].

It will be impossible to do anything about guns in this country, at least at a national level, as long as Democrats depend on the cooperation of a party that holds in reserve the possibility of insurrection. The slaughter of children in Texas has done little to alter this dynamic. Republicans have no intention of letting Democrats pass even modest measures like strengthened background checks, and as long as the Democratic senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema refuse to amend the filibuster, Republicans retain a veto over national policy.

 Victims of our increasingly frequent mass shootings are collateral damage in a cold civil war, though some Democrats refuse to acknowledge it, let alone fight it. Fine’s words echoed Donald Trump’s during the 2016 election, when he said that “Second Amendment people” might be able to stop a President Hillary Clinton from appointing Supreme Court justices. What was once a barely concealed insinuation of violence has morphed, especially since Jan. 6, into an even more forthright menace.

As ProPublica has reported, dozens of members of the Oath Keepers militia were arrested in connection with the attack on the Capitol, but that hasn’t stopped the organization from “evolving into a force within the Republican Party.” In Shasta County, a conservative part of rural Northern California, a militia-aligned faction has secured a majority on the board of supervisors, in what members of the movement see as a blueprint that can be deployed nationally.

 Throughout the country, reported The New York Times, “right-wing Republicans are talking more openly and frequently about the use of force as justifiable in opposition to those who dislodged him” — meaning Trump — “from power.” Expecting those same Republicans to collaborate with Democrats on public safety is madness.

The horrifying irony, the hideous ratchet, is that the more America is besieged by senseless violence, the more the paramilitary wing of the American right is strengthened. Gun sales tend to rise after mass shootings. Republicans responded to the massacre in Uvalde by doubling down on calls to arm teachers and “harden” schools. An article in The Federalist argued that parents must home-school so that kids can learn “in a controlled environment where guns can be safely carried for self-defense or locked away when not in use.” It’s a vision of a society — if you can call it that — where every family is a fortress.

 Guns are now the leading cause of death for American children. Many conservatives consider this a price worth paying for their version of freedom. Our institutions give these conservatives disproportionate power whether or not they win elections. The filibuster renders the Senate largely impotent.

Trump, a president who lost the popular vote, was able to appoint Supreme Court justices who are poised to help overturn a New York state law restricting the carrying of concealed weapons. It’s increasingly hard to see a path to small-d democratic reform. And so among liberals, there’s an overwhelming feeling of despair. Even as people learn the names of all those murdered children, the most common sentiment is not “never again,” but a bitter acknowledgment that nothing is going to change.

America is too sick, too broken. It is perhaps beyond repair. Two years ago, David French, an anti-Trump conservative, published a book, “Divided We Fall,” warning of the possible crackup of the United States. It included two chapters imagining scenarios for how the dissolution of the country might happen. One involved a mass shooting at a school in California, to which the state’s people reacted “with white-hot rage.” French envisioned furious state politicians defying the Second Amendment, leading to a nullification crisis and blue-state secession. He meant it as a cautionary tale, but rereading the chapter after Uvalde, it feels less bleak than our reality. In French’s scenario, atrocity has the effect of energizing people rather than immobilizing them. They are determined to fight, not resigned to defeat. They have audacity and hope.

The real nightmare is not that the repetition of nihilist terrorism brings American politics to an inflection point, but that it doesn’t. The nightmare is that we simply stumble on, helpless as things keep getting worse.

--Michelle Goldberg, New York Times

 Opinions vary on revising the Supreme Court

The leaked draft Supreme Court opinion suggesting a conservative majority will strike down Roe v. Wade this summer has ignited debate over the future of the court. Is reform coming?

Lifetime appointments have to go

With the Supreme Court poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, says Michael Hiltzik in the Los Angeles Times, it's time to discuss "how to rein in the court's extreme conservative slant." There are a few widely discussed ways to address the problem. One that is starting to catch on is "eliminating the justices' right to lifetime appointments by imposing a term limit." Former President Donald Trump, by the "luck of the draw," got to appoint three of the five conservative justices in the majority that, according to a draft opinion leaked this week, is going to strike down Roe, which established the constitutional right to abortion and protected it for nearly 50 years. With lifetime appointments, this hard-right tilt on the court will last decades, given life expectancies that are now far beyond what the Founding Fathers could have imagined. Fixed terms of 18 years, say, would "provide an opening every two years, or two every presidential term," and make it harder for the right, or the left, to dominate the bench.

 Add more justices to even the bench

The hitch is that it's not clear the Constitution gives Congress the power to impose Supreme Court term limits, say Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux and Michael Tabb at FiveThirtyEight. That leaves Democrats with "one crazy, pull-the-fire-alarm solution: They could add more justices to the court." The Constitution requires the United States to have a Supreme Court, but leaves it to Congress to decide how many justices it will have. It started out with six seats, briefly had 10 under President Abraham Lincoln. For most of the nation's history, it has had nine. Four progressive Democrats last year proposed increasing that to 13, but most Democrats, including President Biden, gave the idea the cold shoulder.

Packing the court is a "terrible idea," says The Economist. Which is why it's "currently a fringe position in the Democratic Party." But if the court "swings hard to the right" and the new 6-3 conservative majority "start tearing up precedents that have stood for half a century, there will be growing political pressure to remake the court." The high court could "save itself by acting with restraint," and "bolster its own legitimacy" by imposing an ethics code on itself, to disperse whiffs of partisanship like the "angling" by Justice Clarence Thomas' wife to overturn Trump's 2020 election loss.

The liberal appetite for packing the Supreme Court is no surprise, says The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. Nor is "the return of fevered threats to break the Senate filibuster" to give Democrats, with their narrow Senate majority, the power they crave to remake the court. Watch, next they'll try to Impeach justices. "This fury is intended to intimidate the justices and, if that doesn't work, use abortion to change the election subject in November from Democratic policy failures." The Supreme Court's "best response" is to "ignore the political fallout and focus on the law." Chief Justice John Roberts has rightly called for investigating the leak of the draft opinion. "A statement from all nine Justices deploring the leak would be a useful defense of the court as an institution, as the liberal Justices know they may eventually be in the majority."

That's obviously not going to happen for a long time, says Harold Meyerson in The American Prospect. The makeup of the Electoral College and the Senate, our "primordial gerrymander" giving Republicans power disproportionate to their numbers, have left the United States under "minority rule," with an ever more "right-wing judiciary" making the rules for a 21stcentury world it just doesn't get. There are no "readily realizable" reforms that can fix this, but remember: "Even in a democracy as flawed as ours, the majority, if it turns out in sufficient numbers, can still assert its right to rule.”

--Harold Maass, The Week

Ten more David Foster Wallace Quotes

1. “The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.”  

2. “There are no choices without personal freedom. It’s not us who are dead inside. These things you find so weak and contemptible in us—these are just the hazards of being free.

3. “The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you.”  

4. “Logical validity is not a guarantee of truth.”  

5. “I’d like to be the sort of person who can enjoy things at the time, instead of having to go back in my head and enjoy them.” 

6. “Everything takes time. Bees have to move very fast to stay still.” 

7. “Everybody is identical in their secret unspoken belief that way deep down they are different from everyone else.” 

8. “You will become way less concerned with what other people think of you when you realize how seldom they do.” 

9. “Try to learn to let what is unfair teach you.” 

10. “The parts of me that used to think I was different or smarter or whatever, almost made me die.”


The foreign words English leans on

Everyone frequently uses “loan words,” foreign words adopted into another language without translation. Here are some examples to prove it.

Latin Loan Words

Bona fide--This means genuine, or real. You may call someone a bona fide expert or claim someone is a bona fide friend.

Caveat emptor--“Buyer beware” — you’ll hear this one thrown around when talking about a deal that seems too good to be true.

Ad nauseam--The nausea in this word should provide a context clue; this is Latin for "to a sickening degree." You might refer to your friend going on and on about his new girlfriend, ad nauseam.

Modus operandi--This refers to the particular way of doing something. A written manual will lay out the modus operandi.

Prima donna--If you’re at the opera, you’ll be watching the prima donna, the lead female singer, perform. It doesn’t speak well for her reputation that the other definition of prima donna is a temperamental or conceited person.

Pro bono--This is work that is done for free or donated without charge. You’re most likely to hear it on your favorite legal drama.

Persona non grata--That nasty customer who always has complaints will quickly become a persona non grata, or an unwelcome person.

Quid pro quo--
You’re not asking for a favor when you propose a quid pro quo deal. Instead you’re expecting an equal exchange — you give something in return for the same back.

Status quo--This stands for the existing condition. Your manager may insist that the status quo isn’t good enough, and he or she wants better results at work.

French Loan Words

Carte blanche--If you’re given carte blanche, you have unlimited authority — use it wisely!

Faux pas--This is a social blunder. Watch your manners if you don’t want to commit a faux pas.

Bon voyage--You’ll cheer this as your cruise ship departs, because it literally means “nice trip.”

Fait accompli--This refers to something everyone expects, or has already been decided. It’s fait accompli that the governor will run for re-election.

En masse--Use this term when describing the actions of a large group. The crowd flooded the field en masse when the home team scored the winning goal at the buzzer.

German Loan Words

Kindergarten--Literally translated, this means garden for children, and it’s an appropriate place for four and five-year-olds to spend their days.

Angst--We borrowed the German word for fear to give name to what teenagers often experience as they’re trying to navigate new and big emotions.

Uber--The ride-sharing app borrowed this word that means above and beyond. We’ll let you describe your own experience with the service.

--Inside Hook



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 sre 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 thueringer.”

“Thueringer, 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  



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!