Saturday, July 1, 2023


                                                                                  By Jim Szantor

Rhetorical questions, questionable rhetoric and whimsical observations

about the absurdities of contemporary life

What was the greatest thing before sliced bread? 

Holiday note: “Always remember--George Washington’s brothers were the Uncles of Our Country.”—George Carlin

Overheard:  "When AT&T calls, I tell them I work for Verizon.  And when Verizon calls, I tell them I work for AT&T."

Overheard II:   "I went to a TGIF party.  It was BYOB, and I had enough VO and JB to send me to AA with the DT's!"

One problem with home schooling:  No yearbook!

Which is more oxymoronic—government ethics or military intelligence?  Discuss!

jimjustsaying’s Invention That Doesn’t Exist But Should: The TV Taser, a handheld device that would administer painful electric shocks to any irritating figure in the news, the My Pillow Guy or any member of the Kardashian family.

Four good names for French restaurants that are going to waste:  Le Indifference.  Le Extravagance.  Le Exorbitant. Le Snoberrie.

“Foster has 19 homers.  One more and he’ll be in double figures!"—Jerry Coleman, former Yankees infielder mostly known for his broadcast gaffes.

More Coleman: “Winfield leaps up, and his head hits the wall.  It’s rolling toward the infield!”

Headline: “[Aaron] Rodgers says psychedelics helped his NFL career.”  (Translation:  It made him forget he was spending about half of his year in Wisconsin.)

My favorite line from the works of Ring Lardner: “Shut up, he explained.”

If Andy Warhol were still around, he'd probably revise his "15 minutes of fame" prediction to "Just about everyone will eventually be voted into a Hall of Fame of some kind."  

Somewhere there is probably (or soon will be) a Bowling Alley Pinsetters Hall of Fame, a Curtain Rod Designers Hall of Fame and, eventually, an Underwear Purchasers Hall of Fame.  (I’m under consideration and keeping my fingers crossed!)

Enough!  I'd like to see a moratorium on establishing these dubious, who-gives-a-bleep "Halls of Fame."  They're probably a vestige, writ larger, of the "Every soccer player gets a trophy" syndrome that has infected and debased the country in the last 20 years.

I brought “a dish to pass” to the church potluck supper—nothing on it, just the dish!  (Next time I’ll know better.)

jimjustsaying’s Law of Character Assessment:  The lower one’s educational level (or IQ) or the lower the level of sophistication, the more likely that person is to utter “Ya got that right!” in response to virtually any utterance.  (“Nice to finally get some rain.”  “Ya got that right!”).

One is often tempted to respond with: “I got something right?  Wow! Do I get an award or something? And who anointed you as the exalted arbiter and bestower of such approbation?  Whatever the case, I’ll treasure forever the memory of your crudely expressed approval.  I have arrived!!!”

Do animals get their blood pressure taken?  Is it possible to do that?  Is it a “silent killer” for them, too?

Fun with Latin:  Veni, Vidi, Velcro. I came, I saw, I stuck around.

What's in a Name/Nomenclature Disconnect Dept.: There are few if any commercial entities that label themselves what they actually are and what people actually call them.  

Therefore, there are no "grocery stores," "convenience stores" or "pool halls" but rather "SuperCenters," "Q-Marts" and "Billiard Parlors."  (Kudos to Ace Hardware, which apparently never got--or choose to ignore--the memo.)

Speaking of stores . . .  Clerk: “Did you find everything you were looking for?”  Me: “You mean you didn’t recognize the Poster Boy for Impulse Purchases?”

You can tell a new product has arrived when chain or discount stores start offering their own versions of it.  Now who doesn’t have their very own Mega-Krill Oil? 

And who started this business of asking for charitable donations at the checkout counter?   Do the stores get a tax break for doing this?  Hard to consider something "good PR" when it irritates/intimidates the customers, who feel compelled to either contribute or be considered heartless, craven cheapskates! 

"Metaphysics is a restaurant where they give you a 30,000-page menu and no food."--Robert M. Pirsig, author of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ (a Popcorn author’s favorite and highly recommended).

I love—and collect--foreign words with no English equivalent.  One of my favorites: “Tartle,” a Scots word that defines the hesitation shown in trying to remember someone’s name when trying to make an introduction.

What makes the word so special is that it doesn’t apply when you forget the person’s name entirely--it exists only to encapsulate the brief awkwardness while you rummage around your brain for the answer.  (We’ve all been there, most likely.)

Closely related: jimjustsaying’s Word That Doesn’t Exist But Should of the Month: “Phonesia.”  n.  The affliction of dialing a phone number and forgetting whom you were calling just as soon as that person answers.--"Sniglets," by Rich Hall and Friends

Fortune Cookie of the Month:  "One must dare to be himself, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be."

Would a veterinarian who specializes in elephants be called a  pachydermatologist?

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. 

PC, Boudoir Division (and not making this up): The Houston Association of Realtors has retired the terms “master bedroom” and “master bathroom” because of potential slavery connotations, according to news reports. The terms “primary bedroom” and “primary bathroom” will be used instead. “The consensus,” said the association, “was that ‘primary’ describes the rooms equally as well as ‘master’ while avoiding any possible misperceptions.”

Of all the artworks represented in my collection, I would really hate to lose Lautrec.

Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.

He said it: “The most authentic thing about us . . . is our capacity to be greater than our suffering."--Nigerian poet Ben Okri

jimjustsaying’s Newspaper Obituary Headline Nickname of the Month: “Squeaky.” As in, Milledge “Squeaky” Jackson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 3, 2023.  R.I.P., “Squeaky.”

A few years ago, a friend and his wife were thinking of buying a motel in the North Woods from a couple who wanted to retire.  They were told it was okay to change the name, so I was asked for suggestions.  I offered ten of them:

   10.  Doze Inn

   9.  Slumber Party

   8.  The iPillow Pod

   7.  No-Wake Zone

   6. Norm & Norma’s Cut-Rate Sleeping Bag

   5.  No-Roach Motel

   4.  Mattress Mambo Inn

   3.  It Izzzz what it Izzzz

   2.   Snooze Break

         . . . and their favorite and mine:


jimjustsaying’s Food Fun Fact of the month: Cottage cheese is experiencing a trendy revitalization thanks to recipes popularized on Instagram and TikTok--news reports.

Recipes such as cottage cheese ice cream and toast are getting younger generations interested in the product again. It's also gaining momentum as a health food rather than a diet fad because it's an inexpensive way to get lean protein.

jimjustsaying’s Most Annoying Mispronunciation of the Month (Year?): “inaresting.”  There is no “a” in “interesting.’  Probably most often mispronounced by the people who pronounce the “t” in “often.”  Where did these people go to school?  Or did they?

Commerce Marches On: The humble and familiar barcode-- a staple on consumer packaging for nearly 50 years--will soon be replaced with a more robust and muscular successor that offers far more information about the product inside.

The new "2D" barcodes will unlock reams of online extras (for consumers) and revolutionize inventory management (for retailers). Scanning them may tell us the field where something was grown, the factory where a garment was sewn, the sustainability practices of the company that made it--or the washing instructions.

Morning in America:  From the upcoming “Barbie” movie to a purple McDonald’s milkshake honoring the 52d birthday of Grimace (whoever that is!), throwback products and entertainment are huge this summer, Axios reports.

It seems that the GenZ’ers and millennials—whom marketers call “kidults”—are indulging in everything and anything that reminds them of their childhood.  Such juvenile fare as “Teenage Mutant Turtles,” “Transformers” and “Indiana Jones” are on tap this summer.  And Barbie dolls and Big Wheels are said to be “flying off the shelves.”

(So if you’re out shopping this summer, Mr. Popcorn advises you to wear protective headgear lest you be struck by any of these “flying” items.)

“You can’t blame the President for everything that’s wrong with this country. That’s like blaming Ronald McDonald for a bad hamburger!”—Bobcat Goldthwait

More Bobcat: “That movie was so bad I can’t believe I wasn’t in it!”

People always say bad news (or celebrity deaths) “always comes in threes”—but they never define the time limit. If two celebrities die tomorrow . . . and the third one dies a month from now, does that count as the third?  (That is yet another common belief that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.  Personally, I like to take my bad news one at a time.)

When is the last time you saw one of those iconic Rockwellian institutions—the child-operated curbside lemonade stand?  (If any still exist, they are probably in the whitest of suburbs with a brigade of helicopter parents helicoptering.)

In addition to the almighty “right to bear arms,” I think some people hold as dearly “the right to bear grudges.”

He said it: “The worst winter I ever endured was a summer in San Francisco.”—Mark Twain

She said it: “[Donald] Trump is feral, focused on his own survival, with no sense of shame or boundaries or restraint.”--Maureen Dowd, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist of the New York Times, June 18, 2023

Mo (as intimates call her) goes on to quote my former Chicago Tribune colleague David Axelrod, who was Barack Obama’s first senior adviser (and host of CNN’s “The Axe Files). Quoth David:  “In that sense, being a sociopath really works for him.” (Indeed it does!)

Who Knew Department:  When friends told us they had just acquired a Miniature Schnauzer, I jokingly wondered aloud if there were Giant Schnauzers. 

It turns out there are:  Giant Schnauzers, Wikipedia informs us—and “schnauzer is German for “snout,” which you undoubtedly suspected—stand about 2 feet at the shoulder and can weight up to 80 pounds. Historically, they helped herd cattle and were used as guard dogs at breweriesI (Who else would tell you these things?)

Redundancy Patrol: “Enter into,” barred out of,” “for free.”

Where the visual arts and music diverge: 

No one leaves an art gallery humming a painting or a Broadway musical humming the set design.  But people ask for favorite songs to be played at their “celebrations of life,” events at which framed artworks or favorite books are seldom if ever on display.  And people say, “They’re playing our song,” never, “They’re showing our painting.”

In addition, the visual arts world routinely tops the arts police blotter, with regular reports of thefts, fakes, phony tax write-offs and other infractions.  When is the last time there was a scandal in, say, classical music?  Opera?  Dance? 

Music rules, folks!  Long after folks have forgotten there was a movie titled “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” they’ll still be hearing or humming “Moon River.” (Thank you, Henry Mancini!)

Whatever happened to Chris (“Hardball”) Matthews?

Three things unlikely to occur or be seen:  Your money cheerfully refunded, potholes instantly repaired or a Rhodes Scholar with tattoos.

Every time I see a package of warm pork chops next to the canned goods in the grocery store, my faith in humanity—can it get any lower?—slips another notch.  (Curmudgeon or realist—you can call me either one. But if I change my mind about an item, I put it back where it came from.)

From the Kenosha News, June 24: “The fatal shooting that occurred in the parking lot of an Uptown church last week was likely sparked by a drug deal gone wrong.”

Gone wrong? As opposed to all those good drug deals, the ones with the Vatican Seal of Approval, the ones in which no one gets shot but someone is still shooting poison into their veins with money they should be spending on necessities or with money they may have stolen? 

Those, I suppose, are the drug deals gone right. But the police keep saying those words year after year!  All due respect, but no Rhodes Scholars among the men in blue.

“The worst time to have a heart attack is during a game of charades!”—Demetri Martin

DRUDGING AROUND:  One-legged crime boss on run for years is captured . . . She sued neighbor to stop smoking marijuana and won . . . “Greedflation” as companies raise prices for higher profits . . . “Anne Frank pornography” being banned in FL, TX schools . . . Harvard morgue manager charged with selling body parts . . . Swollen eyes, hunchbacked, clawlike hands:  What the remote worker will look like in 70 years . . . San Francisco supermarket installs metal exit gates to deter shoplifters . . . Nature gone mad?  Eagles kidnap baby hawk twins; kill one, raise another . . . Scientology worker sues after she was forced to marry abuser . . . “Goyim Defense League” based in Florida. (Thanks, as always, to Matt Drudge and his merry band of aggregators.)

jimjustsaying’s Media Word of the Month (a word you never hear a person use in everyday life): Foment/fomenting. 

The Tired Rhetorical Device That Will Not Die: “That sound you heard was the gnashing of thousands of GOP power-brokers’ teeth.”—William Kristol, Weekly  (Did you hear anything?  Neither did I!)

Today’s Latin Lesson:  Illic nunquam a formo muneris inter ut vos postulo unus. ("There's never a fashion policeman around when you need one.")

Special thanks to Hugh Briss, this month’s Popcorn intern.