Thursday, June 1, 2023



By Jim Szantor

Rhetorical questions, questionable rhetoric

                    and whimsical observations about 

absurdities of contemporary life

·         Real men don’t tweet.
    Good news and bad news: The good? My blog got a huge plug on ”GMA” the other day. The bad? It was on "Good Morning, Afghanistan"!

    "Someday is not a day of the week."--Novelist Janet Dailey

    Tailgating is a strange word. It can mean either (a) An impatient motorist following a vehicle too closely, or (b) Cooking bratwurst or some other fatty meat in a stadium parking lot.

    Speaking of which: “We have THE MEATS!” Recent headline out of New Iberia, La.: “Dead body found inside Arby’s freezer.” (“You want flies with that . . . .?”)

    Popcorn’s advice to all June graduates: Work hard, be honest and never let failure go to your head!

    jimjustsaying’s British-ism of the Week: A speed bump in England is called "a sleeping policeman."

    Return to sender? Retailers are clamping down on the rising cost of processing returns by shortening return windows, charging for mailed returns and offering discounts to customers who agree not to send items back, the Wall Street Journal reports.

     Actual quote from a questionnaire on the Axios Finish Line report for April 19:

    "I have asked AI what recipe I could make with three ingredients: tomatoes, potatoes and shredded sharp cheese. It gave me a delicious scalloped potato recipe."—Axios PM

    Popcorn’s reaction (after forehead slap): So THAT’S what artificial intelligence is all about! What a boon to mankind! I guess devising a cure for cancer is way down the priority list, but, hey, what’s the hurry? Keep those recipes coming! (I wonder what one could do with, say, black olives, kale and pomegranates? I’m sure AI will come up with something.)

    Wise words: “Some people say they have 20 years’ experience when, in reality, they have 1 year’s experience repeated 20 times.”--Business guru Stephen Covey

    jimjustsaying’s Actual Stupid Warning listed on an Actual Product of the Month (a Korean-made kitchen knife): “Keep out of children.”

    Name the only two words in the English language in which all five vowels appear in alphabetical order. (Answer elsewhere in this blog.)

    Do they make partial toupees? If so, they could call them . . . Throw Rugs. Or perhaps, Area Rugs?

    “Jazz is a music where we never play anything the same way once!”--Shelly Manne, legendary drummer (Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, first-call New York and Hollywood studio musician).

    Batter up! And, most important, head’s up!

    On August 17, 1957, future Hall of Fame center fielder Richie Ashburn of the Philadelphia Phillies hit spectator Alice Roth with a foul ball, breaking her nose. As Roth was being carted off the field on a stretcher, Ashburn hit her with another foul ball, breaking a bone in her knee. The odds of a fan being hit by a baseball are 300,000 to 1. The odds of the same fan being hit twice during the same at-bat, and breaking bones both times, are beyond astronomical.

    Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller once hit his mother with a hard foul ball. Again, what are the odds? Especially since Feller was a pitcher and unlikely to make hard contact in the first place!

    And the storied Ted Williams once flipped his bat in anger after a strikeout and in horror watched it strike his landlady, who was sitting in a seat he had provided for her! (In other words, eat your nachos between innings.)

    And if you’re thinking Lawsuit City here, you’ll strike out quickly. The small print on the back of the tickets that nobody reads says that you assume all such risks, so the ballpark is indemnified from any payouts. The only time team owners are vulnerable to litigation is when stands collapse due to negligence, or other rare mishaps occur.

    Did you know that Smokey the Bear’s original name was Hot Foot Teddy? (Sometimes going back to the proverbial drawing board is a damned good idea!)

    I understand they now have Family Dollar stores in Mexico: La Tiendas de Familia Peso! The Dollar Tree? That would be El Arbol Del Dólar. (They’re muy bueno when you’re feeling mucho cheapo!)

    The only trouble with Chinese fortune cookies is that 20 minutes later you want to read again.

    jimjustsaying's Name for Something That Doesn't Exist But Should: Fitting Persons Bureau: Where a man needs to go to find out if his wife is trying something on when he can't find her anywhere in the women's clothing department of whatever store you are in.

    Thinking outside the box: What if "they" ultimately discover that radiation is good for us!

    It took the so-called experts eons to reverse course on the egg and determine that "it isn't the cholesterol villain we once thought it was. Eat all you want." (To name but one example of FDA flip-flopping.)

    I think the egg has been around much longer than nuclear radiation, so there's still time. And readers of the AMA Journal know this: Science is still discovering things about aspirin, which has been around almost as long as the egg.

    Time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a banana.

    Why don’t they dump water (or Kool-Aid or Gatorade) on the coach whose team lost the game? Or throw a pie in the face of the losing pitcher? They’ve got it backwards, big time!

    Breaking News, Language Division: The Wall Street Journal is getting less formal. Journal editor-in-chief Emma Tucker said on May 16 the news outlet is dropping “the routine use of honorifics, or courtesy titles.” In other words, it will no longer use titles such as Mr. or Ms. in news stories. Instead, after the first reference of a person’s name in a story, it will just give their surname.

    (There’s no truth to the rumor that the ultra-formal New York Times once referred to Snoop Dogg in second and subsequent references as Mr. Dogg. Ditto the denials for referring to Meat Loaf as “Mr. Loaf.”)

    At the risk of seeming heartless, I pose this question: Aren't these police funeral "shows of solidarity" getting just a wee bit over the top?

    I'm sure the sorrow is as sincere as it gets, but do we need hundreds of law-enforcement personnel saluting for the cameras while the pipes are piping? The recent deaths of two Wisconsin officers saw this play out in funeral/memorial services in not one but two towns!

    The obvious problem: Who's minding the store? Answer: Personnel from nearby towns--personnel not all that familiar with the territory they are temporarily "covering"--leaving their own towns shorthanded and inadequately protected! Wonderful. Good thing the crime rate is plummeting!

    If you look up news accounts of police/firefighter fatalities from decades ago, I doubt you'll find evidence of what we're seeing today. The deaths were just as tragic, but the aftermath much less grandiose. (Similarly, did football players of the pre-TV era do end-zone dances when they scored a touchdown? Once again, the media has become part of the event instead of the fly on the wall.)

    I abhor these tragedies as much as the next guy, I'm strongly against gun ownership, and if I won the lottery, I'd buy a bullet-proof vest for every police officer who needed one. I'm just put off by these mawkish, gratuitous public displays that put the public at risk.

    (At the risk of being labeled anti-cop, consider that police work doesn’t even make the Top 10 of Most Dangerous Professions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Firefighters didn’t make that list, either.

    Logging workers, commercial fishermen and aircraft pilots and aircraft workers are in the Top 3 of annual fatalities, and police work also trails roofers, truck drivers and even landscape workers. Ever seen a procession of lawn mowers for a fallen landscaper? I rest my case.)

    jimjustsaying’s You Gotta Be Kidding Factoids of the Month: To become a barber in several states requires significantly more training time than to become a police officer. In North Carolina, licensed barbers need 1,528 hours of training, police officers only 620 hours. There’s a similar split in Florida between licensed interior designers (1,760 hours) and police officers (770 hours). In Louisiana, it requires more training to become a licensed manicurist (500 hours) than a police officer (360 hours)

    She said it: “Fashion passes; style remains.”—Coco Chanel

    He said it: “In a nuclear war, all men are cremated equal.”—Dexter Gordon

    Planned obsolescence will never go out of style.

    You know you’re an old-timer when you can easily recall the days when most Major League Baseball players—even some of the stars—had regular jobs during the offseason, most commonly as car salesmen. Some even worked construction jobs to make ends meet.

    That was during the time when the major league minimum was $6,000 (it’s $700k now). The Cubs were considered to have landed a bargain this last offseason when they signed Cody Bellinger, a 2019 MVP with the Los Angeles Dodgers but coming off three definitely subpar seasons, for only $16.9 million—for one year! (Don’t look for Cody at a Chicago-area car dealership next winter . . . unless, perhaps, he’s buying a dozen or so cars for Christmas gifts.)

    No one has ever complained that their internet connection was too fast.

    Memo to managers of grocery (and other) stores with shopping carts: How about taking them aside and doing a little wheel maintenance once in a while? Turn them upside down and give 'em the once-over. A little bolt-tightening and a little lubrication (WD-40?) would probably do wonders for those oh-so-wobbly wheels. Replace as needed. Rinse/lather/repeat.

    Wobbly, sticking, misshapen wheels and dented carts (that can’t be unstuck from another cart) just irritate the customer, so you would think more attention would be paid in this area.

    But this is yet another example of corporate blind spots or indifference; if “the suits” think of this at all, they don't see such maintenance as contributing to the bottom line, therefore why bother? And the CEOs and bean-counters probably never do their own shopping in the first place, compounding the problem. (And they wonder why "profit margins" are down. Sometimes it's the little things, folks.)

    To the kind soul who inquired: Yes, I’ve written two books (“A Portrait of Bill Chase,” 2007, and “LOL-i-Gags,” 2014) and have two more in the works: “Cruising for Burgers With Eric Clapton and Other True Tales From 33 Years in Music and the Media,” and a comedic memoir, “Egg On My Face . . . with Traces Of Ham!” Neither figure to be made into major motion pictures, but as in life, the journey is often more rewarding and memorable than the destination.

    DRUDGING AROUND: 1 in 4 high school students abusing Adderall . . . Americans now spend more on legal weed than chocolate . . . Florida’s ongoing battle with Jew hatred . . . Leg-lengthening surgery gaining popularity . . . Study: Face masks may raise risk of testicular dysfunction, cognitive decline . . . Member of “White Lives Matter” tried to burn down church to stop drag show . . . Once-a-week nightmare: Mass killings on rise . . . Demand for bullet-proof cars skyrockets . . . When your boss is an algorithm . . . Phony doc treated patients for years, even for cancer . . . Sperm donor father of at least 550 kids banned from donating any more . . . Driven to suicide by weed: Familiar tale across USA . . . Navy hires active-duty drag queen to be face of recruitment drive . . . Russian men changing gender to avoid war . . . Mothers living single together in “Mommunes” . . . Half of people say their soulmate is their pet . . . Ohio woman arrested for defecating on church altar . . . Does God exist? Only HALF say yes . . . Man spends millions a year trying to look 18, swapping blood with his son . . . Seaweed washing ashore in Florida contains flesh-eating bacteria. (Thanks, as always, to Matt Drudge and his intrepid band of aggregators.)

    Still more consumer upheaval! If you thought the new wrinkles in our lives have ended . . . enter the Reverse ATM card!

    Stores don't want your cash, so they're bringing in reverse ATMs, which gobble up your bills and spit out stored-value cards.

    The cashless trend was accelerated by the pandemic. But states and cities are passing laws banning stores and businesses from eschewing cash, in deference to people who don't have bank accounts or credit cards, Axios' Jennifer A. Kingson writes. Handling cash is also a hassle for retailers, with problems including theft and constant runs to the bank.

    Reverse ATMs are quickly being installed in all manner of venues that want to go cashless without flouting the law. Amusement parks, casinos and sports stadiums are taking the lead.

    Remember the days when you’d hear “The customer is always right”? And how it seemed to have morphed into “The customer is always wrong.”

    Well, wrong in both cases. Absolutes are rarely valid. Sometimes the customer wasn’t right (for myriad reasons), just as the customer isn’t always wrong--despite what some institutions of commerce, etc. would like you to believe.

    I used to think "awesome" and "totally" were the two most mis- and/or over-used words in the English language these days, but "literally" is rapidly closing in on them, unfortunately. “Iconic” is in the running, too. ("Figuratively" is probably safe for now. And thanks to Target for the photo-op!)

    Chinese Fortune Cookie of the Month (from Hong Kong Buffet, Sturgeon Bay, Wis.): "The fortune you seek is in another cookie."

    She said it: "There is nothing quite so tragic as a young cynic, because it means the person has gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing."--Maya Angelou

    He said it: "We have created a Star Wars civilization with Stone Age emotions."--Biologist E.O. Wilson

    Sure-fire concert package no promoter ever dreamed up: Johnny Cash, Eddie Money, Johnny Paycheck . . . and--for diversity--50-Cent. Tickets would surely be top dollar; no crypto.

    jimjustsaying’s Word That Doesn't Exist But Should of the Month: "Halaska, n. The boxed area on a U.S. map where our 49th and 50th states are located."--"Unexplained Sniglets of the Universe," Rich Hall and Friends.

    Memo to all sports announcers (especially radio guys): No one has ever complained about a play-by-play announcer giving the score too often.

    Believe it or not, there is another slew of drugs just approved soon to be saturation-covered on the airwaves:

    Get ready to hear about Uzedy, Abilify Asimtufii, Vowst Capsules, Qualsody, Omisirge, RizaFilm, Qulipta, Prevnar 20, Trikafta, Hyqvia, Hizentra, Sogroya, Evkeeza, Hyrimoz, Taflinar, Illucix, Verzenio, Kevzara, Austedo XR, Jemperli, Eylea, Trodelvy, Takhzyro, Tezspire, Odactra, Tukysa, Brukinsa, Adacel, Actemra, Tymlos, Vraylar, Pemfexy, Asceniv, Tecentriq, Brexafemme, Rylaze, Adcetris, Imfinzi, Liletta, Libtayo, Rotarix, Cotellic, Vemlidy, Menveo, Lyumjev, Boostrix, Dovato and, last but probably far from least, Oxlumo.

    Popcorn’s author suspects that some of these drugs could be for diseases and conditions that haven’t been invented yet and that many drug stores are going to have to build an addition to stock these additions to the burgeoning pantheon of nouveau pharmaceuticals.

    And one I had on a recent drug list sounds to me like an action figure: “It’s a bird, it’s a plane . . . no, IT’S SKYRIZI!”

    But in addition to all this, America is staring down its worst shortage of life-saving drugs in almost a decade--and the situation is poised to get worse. Shortages of cancer drugs and other vital medications are forcing physicians to develop workarounds, according to news reports.

    More than 300 drugs are in shortage, the highest since 2014, per the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. The American Cancer Society warned last month about potentially "life-threatening" supply problems of chemotherapy drugs that don't have an effective alternative.

    IV antibiotics used in hospitals, such as penicillin, have also been running low across the country. And the shortfalls are surfacing deeply entrenched problems in America's drug supply chain, particularly around commonly used generic drugs, drugs that don't turn a large profit, and companies are increasingly reluctant to manufacture them.

    jimjustsaying’s Newspaper Obituary Headline Nickname of the Month: “Dodo.” As in, Gary L. “Dodo” Stuller, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 1, 2023. R.I.P., Dodo.

    Blast from the past: Remember “Casual Fridays” . . . before they became . . . Casual Everydays? Not long ago the Associated Press reported (with photos) that visitors were arriving at the Vatican in tank tops, cutoffs and sandals! And these days . . . any restaurant with a dress code would be in receivership.

    Speaking of which: Sporting a pair of jeans and a denim jacket, Levi Strauss CEO Chip Bergh declared at a recent Axios BFD conference in San Francisco that skinny jeans are never going away, Axios' Kelly Tyko writes.

    The big denim trend at the moment is looser, baggier fits. But Bergh told Axios’ Hope King that skinny jeans are "a staple in women's closets and will always be a staple."

    Now the clincher: Bergh wears his Levi's for major occasions: "I met the pope wearing jeans. It's in my contract."

    I submit there is such a thing as the rules getting too relaxed. And where nothing is too nutty-sounding to be real—such as the society were now living in, in which taxpayers, some courts have ruled, must foot the bill for prisoners’ sex-change operations! (Just shoot me now!!!)

    Here's an idea: Next time someone floats the idea of taxpayers footing the bill for upgrading a sports stadium (as was recently the case in Milwaukee regarding the Brewers), how about having the players pay for it? With their outsized salaries and licensing royalties, they obviously can afford it. Otherwise, the fans are paying twice: Once for tickets, twice for added taxes. Most folks would cry “foul” over that.

    Quiz answer: abstemious and facetious.

    jimjustsaying's Party Ice-Breaker of the Month: "Say [actual partygoer's name here], did you know that researchers at MIT revealed that virtually every story in human literature—from King Lear to "The Hangover"—is based on one of just six core plots that form the building blocks of complex narratives?" (Kind of hard to work into a conversation, but I'm sure you'll plot a way to do it.)

    Another in a list of jimjustsaying's Media Words (words you see or hear only in news reports and never hear a normal person use in real life): "garb." (As in, "The gunman was said to be wearing military-style garb.")

    Uplifting news: More than 100 kids and young people recorded safety messages for transit systems in New York and other major U.S. cities as part of the Autism Transit Project, according to news reports.

    Many autistic kids cling to familiar phrases they listen to while being deeply focused. The project has aimed to broaden acceptance of children with autism and to give them a chance to have their voices broadcast at train stations, which many of them adore.

    Many children with autism focus intensely on the technical aspects of trains and buses, subway maps and train schedules, said Jonathan Trichter, a co-founder of the Foundry Learning Center--a school for children with developmental disabilities in Manhattan--and the driving force behind the public service announcements.

    Transit officials said they were glad to support the project.

    “We know that children on the spectrum are some of our biggest fans,” said James Allison, a spokesman for Bay Area Rapid Transit, which has played the children’s announcements at all 50 stations this month. “It seemed like a natural thing, and what a great way to give them a thrill.”

    Sometimes “enough is enough,” even for a robot! “Digit,” a robot on display at a trade exhibit in Chicago, collapsed after a mere 20 hours of shelf-stacking. (Popcorn intern Sal Monella reached out to the Robotics Union of America but has not heard back.)

    Who knew? Zelda, Breath of the Wild is one of the best-selling console games of all time, with nearly 30 million copies sold and counting.

    When you’re hot, you’re hot: Taylor Swift's 52-night, 20-city tour through the U.S. is breaking attendance records and could be one of the highest-grossing tours of all time, writes Axios' Erica Pandey. But the Eras Tour's influence extends beyond just ticket and merchandise sales.

    The concerts are fueling an entire Taylor Swift economy as fans spend big on travel, lodging, makeup, fashion and food to attend the shows. Many fans are traveling to different states to catch shows because they grabbed whatever tickets they could get.

    In Houston, Swift boosted hotel occupancy rates more than the NCAA men's Final Four. (Somewhere Michael Jackson is thinking, “And I thought I was a hot ticket?!”)

    Ripped from today’s headlines: A story about teens and young adults having less sex says it can be attributed to, among other things, the prying eyes of parents, says college student Abby Tow, who wonders if helicopter parenting has played a role in what she calls the “baby-fication of our generation.”

    A senior at the University of Oklahoma, Tow knows students in college whose parents monitor their whereabouts using tracking apps. (Really? Baby-fication, indeed!)

    Popcorn comment: If this trend results in fewer births, so much the better, as scientists with heavy credentials are saying the planet is going to be virtually uninhabitable before too long. So let’s hear it for baby-fication!

    Matter of Fact Dept.: Bill O’Reilly’s book “Killing Lincoln” is replete with references to the Oval Office, even though the Oval Office wasn’t built until 1909.

    Tuning In: Tennessee has eight--count 'em--Official State Songs. New Jersey? None. (Kind of hard to work into a conversation, but there you have it.)

    It would be amusing if academics like anthropologists had colorful nicknames; you know, like gangsters used to have. Like . . . Chauncy "The Primordial Realist" Wellington. Ellsworth "The Punky Paleontologist" Whitney.

    Today's Latin lesson: Utor es postulo purgo manuum pro recidivus laboro. ("Employees must wash hands before returning to work.")

    Special thanks to Abby Rhodes, this month’s Popcorn intern.