Thursday, February 1, 2024


  By Jim Szantor

Rhetorical questions, questionable rhetoric and whimsical observations about the absurdities of contemporary life 


What they’re saying about Jim’s provocative blog

--"Gluten-free . . . and that’s a good thing!—Martha Stewart

--"I love it when he says he doesn’t always agree with everything he says.”—Joe Biden

--"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 Broadus, Jr. (aka Snoop Dogg)

--“Acerbic comedy without the annoying aftertaste!”—Jimmy Kimmel


--I was a teenage crime-scene cleanup technician.

--Overheard: “Don’t ever work for someone you wouldn’t want to become.”

--I like to think of myself as couth, ept and combobulated.  Oh, and I’m gruntled, too!

--jimjustsaying’s New Weather Word: When snow flurries are so light that they’re barely visible, they almost look like airborne lint, don’t they? I call them “slint.” Tomorrow’s forecast: Mostly sunny, turning partly slinty by afternoon. Chance of slint: 60 percent.

--I hate to admit it, but my Christmas ornaments are still up. Not the tree--just the ornaments!

--Memo to people who wear windbreakers with the names of taverns on them:  How much are you being paid to advertise your lifestyle choices (such as they are)? (“Yeah, I hang out at the Slimy Skunk Saloon and want everyone to know it.”)

--Rumors that I've been selected for the lead role in "Deuce Bigalow, Geriatric Gigolo" are just that--rumors! (How do these things get started?)

--I’m trying to be more laid back this year. When something upsets me, I’m going to go into low dudgeon.  (Whatever the opposite of “going ballistic is,” that’s what I’ll be doing . . . whenever ballistic behavior would normally be warranted.)

--Some good news . . . finally! Within 10 years, about 95 percent of the world's top tech companies will be American thanks to the U.S. lead in artificial intelligence, Palantir CEO Alex Karp told Axios' Mike Allen in Davos.

Why it matters: Karp called the European startup scene "anemic," noting that tech's "real growth and providers are in America."

America's advantage will compound because of the lack of big tech companies in Europe today, he said--handing "almost all the value" of AI to the U.S.

--Does anyone really believe those restaurant ad claims (often seen in Where to Go Guide-type publications) such as “Voted best (pizza/ribs/fried chicken) in (Your Town Here)”? Eight pizza parlor ads in those pages . . . and all were voted No. 1? Incredible. I know I didn’t vote—did you? Has anyone ever asked for a recount?  Documentation would seem to be in order!

(“Hon, don’t forget; we gotta vote on Tuesday. You know, the Pizza Election. And, oh yes, a week from Thursday is the Primary for Chicken and Ribs.  Mark that down. Hmmm, I wonder if we can vote absentee?”)

--Redundancy patrol: "Pick and choose," "join together," "women’s panties."

--Tax documents are starting to arrive in my mailbox. (If you thought IRS regulations were tough, try figuring out your Body Mass Index!  I need an advisor for that, too!)

--Political speech I'd love to hear (but probably never will).  "Win or lose, I promise to have all of my campaign signs and posters taken down the day after the election."

(Funny, but I don’t recall ever seeing or hearing a candidate’s TV or radio ad after the election, have you?  But somewhere there’s probably a faded Romney poster stuck on a telephone pole somewhere.)

--Prediction:  Some people will be so disenchanted with the presidential candidates that they will write in The My Pillow Guy just out of frustration.  (Well, at least one person will . . . and it well may BE the My Pillow Guy!)

Speaking of politics: If queried by a pollster, ask whom the pollster is voting for.  And if he or she won’t tell you (which they won’t), return the favor.

--More words you seen in print but never hear an actual person ever use in real life: "Chortle," "sheaf" and "imbroglio."

--One wonders who is worse off in our current economic landscape:  The person with virtually no education to speak of and no job (or a McJob) . . . or the person with a master's degree and no job (or a McJob).

(At least Mr., Ms. or Mrs. No Education doesn't have $300,000 or more in student loans to worry about while he or she is worrying where their next meal is coming from!)

--All persons are presumed innocent until the surveillance video is broadcast on national television.

(Wouldn’t you think, given today’s technology, that the quality of those surveillance videos wouldn’t still look like the picture people got on a 1949-vintage TV set!)

--jimjustsaying’s Party Ice-Breaker of the Month:  “Say [actual partygoer’s name here], did you know that Woody Allen is afraid of elevators and lives on the first floor of his building?”  (Kind of hard to work into a conversation, but there you have it.)

--“Shoes made of alligator or crocodile leather should be cleaned in the same manure as regular shoes.”—Idaho Falls Eastern Idaho Farmer, via “Still More Press Boners,” by Earle Tempel.

--jimjustsaying’s Word That Doesn’t Exist But Should of the Month: “Gladhandling.” n.  To attempt, with frustrating results, to find and separate the ends of a plastic trash bag. —“Sniglets,” Rich Hall & Friends

--I’ve basically lived my life bass ackwards, as they say--totally against the grain. For example, I quit drinking when I turned 21!

--He said it: “Travel lets us leave behind our unrealistic prejudices about other places and the people who live there and develop new, more realistic prejudices based on their actual deficiencies.”--Dennis Miller

--She said it: “On a first date, I ask myself, ‘Is this the man I want my kids to spend every other weekend with?’ ”—Rita Rudner

--DRUDGING AROUND:  Minn. woman sues dentist after 4 root canals, 8 dental crowns and 20 fillings in a single visit that led to disfigurement . . . Exploding toilet at DUNKIN’ left customer filthy, injured . . . All Alone: LA has thousands of unclaimed dead . . . Woman will suffer diarrhea forever after Ozempic causes horrible bowel injury . . . Woman found with dog urine in court-ordered drug test . . . Underwear, socks latest item to be locked up in shoplifting crackdown . . . Cops:  Man tried to swap drugs for fried pickles at Buffalo Wild Wings . . . Religious “Nones” now largest single group in USA . . . Man dies while giving eulogy at funeral . . . Shock: Alzheimer’s can spread BETWEEN humans . . . MAGA maniac beheads dad live on YouTube. (As always, thanks to Matt Drudge and his merry band of aggregators.)

Another in jimjustsaying's series of Occupations No Child Has Ever Fantasized About or Aspired To:  Nail salon technician. (Still No. 1: Insurance-claims adjuster.)

--What’s old is new—again! Flip phones are having a moment as an alternative to smartphones. Consumers--especially younger people--are buying these older phones to cut down on their screen time, according to ZDNET.

U.S. flip phone sales reached about $3 million last year, according to Counterpoint Research. It might not seem like much, but these devices were nearly extinct.

(So if you never joined the cellphone generation, you no longer look like a wayward Mennonite.  And look at all the money you saved?)

--“The Detroit Quartet played Brahms last night.  Brahms lost.” — Anonymous critic

--Overheard: “The World’s Oldest Woman just died at 115.  Man, that title must be CURSED!”

TODAY’S LATIN LESSON:  Non habemus foetidus nives dies cum aetas tua eram! (“We didn't have no stinkin' snow days when I was your age!”)

 Special thanks to Dolly Lama, this month’s Popcorn intern. 



By Jim Szantor

Perhaps unwittingly, the most prominent of all of the many  true-crime programs/documentaries on TV nowanights—“Dateline” and “20-20”--have spawned a nearly staggering number of “viewalikes” (for lack of a better term).  Such as:

"Murder in the Heartland,”  “Signs of a Psychopath,” “48 Hours,” “Death By Fame,” “See No  Evil,” “Murder Under the Friday Night Lights,” “Betrayed,” “Disappeared,” “Evil Lives Here,” “Very Scary People,” “A Time to Kill,” “I Went Undercover,” “Murder in the Wicked West,” “Buried in the Backyard,” “Fear Thy Roommate,” “Devil in Suburbia,” “Body Cam,” “The Murder Tapes,” “Real Time Crime,” “Murder Comes to Town” and two recent entries, “The Playboy Murders” and “Feds.”

And of course there is an old standby, Fox TV’s "Cops” and its derivatives (“Cops, Jailhouse Las Vegas” etc.) and the well-remembered “America’s Most Wanted.”  And who can forget “Unsolved Mysteries,” starring Robert Stack, he of the “grim presence and ominous narration” (Wikipedia’s words), who was taken out of mothballs in 1987 by NBC long after his storied run as Eliot Ness on “The Untouchables” (1959-1963). “Unsolved” mostly dealt with the paranormal, but crime left its fingerprints and blood spatter on more than a few episodes.

As you undoubtedly know and are constantly reminded (via the obligatory disclaimer at the outset of “Cops”), “All persons are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.” Left unsaid: Unless they are seen by millions on TV, usually sweaty, grime-streaked, shirtless and cuffed while doing their perp walk or the equivalent. (Pity goes out to the valiant lawmen or women who have to put their hands on the heads of these miscreants, the better to propel them into the back seat of the voiture de police.

What separates these imitators from the originals is their sometimes almost comical use of “re-creation footage” (usually and maddeningly not labeled as such), using actors chosen because of their alleged resemblance to the crime victims/participants back in the dark day when the evil deeds occurred. This gambit, never used on “Dateline” or “20-20,” often promotes confusion as it is often hard enough to determine who did what to whom in some of these multiple twist-and-turn sagas without having to remember which actor is supposed to align with which real-life victim, family member or law-enforcement official.  Cold-case episodes invariably feature grizzled and usually portly retired detectives, police chiefs, prosecutors, defense attorneys and the like, all there to lend historical perspective, key details and, occasionally, gravitas.

Another seemingly de rigueur hallmark of these shows is the apparently obligatory opening aerial shot of the city, town or hamlet where the atrocity/atrocities occurred, as if that provides any edification to the viewer.  Stock aerial footage of any typical town would probably suffice (do you really know what Elbow, Alabama looks like from the air?), and no one would be the wiser.  Essentially, the aerial shot basically tells us nothing at all about the event(s) about to unfold.  But you can count on one being there, the copy-cat syndrome apparently as hard to stamp out as Covid and its many derivatives.

--And now there is another notable entry in the True Crime pantheon: “Crime Feed,” starring the Poster Person for Hanging-Judge-Mentality-TV Folks-With-a-Law-Degree, Nancy Grace.  Unlike her confrere of the airwaves, the ubiquitous Dan Abrams, Ms. NG makes no pretense of trying to hide her contempt for anyone remotely connected to the crime du jour.  She seethes, she sneers, she snarls and nearly hyperventilates as she engages in discourse with her colleagues, a male private investigator and Mara S. Campo, a journalist and commentator.

Some viewers with a long memory may recall Grace’s role in the Melinda Duckett case:

According to Wikipedia:

On Nov. 21, 2006, The Smoking Gun web site exposed pending litigation on behalf of the estate of Melinda Duckett, asserting a wrongful death claim against CNN and Grace. The attorney for the estate alleges that, even if Duckett did kill her own son, Grace's aggressive questioning traumatized Duckett so much that she committed suicide. She also argues that CNN's decision to air the interview after Duckett's suicide traumatized her family. Trenton, Duckett’s 2-year-old son, has never been found.

On Nov. 8, 2010, Grace reached a settlement with the estate of Melinda Duckett to create a $200,000 trust fund dedicated to locating Trenton. "We are pleased the lawsuit has been dismissed. The statement speaks for itself," a spokeswoman for CNN said.

--As mentioned in an earlier Popcorn column, another true-crime entry, “Calls from the Inside,” shows the Dumb Criminal Syndrome in full cry as the male or female inmate, though aware that all calls made or received In prison are recorded, make blatantly incriminating statements, often in totally transparent “code.”  Either that or discussing thinly veiled plans to eliminate someone, usually a witness or recently released jailhouse snitch. So those in search of comic relief and more than a few forehead slaps in the process of getting their True Crime fix would do well to check out “Calls From the Inside.”  It’s must-see TV for me.

--And, of course, no discourse on this phenomenon would be complete without mention of “Forensic Files,” a series (now including “Forensic Files II”) that is apparently nearly the sole raison d’etre of HLN, it on many days accounting for virtually 100 percent of the programming (save for a few of those all-important, revenue-raising infomercials).  The narration on all of the original series episodes was the redoubtable Peter Thomas, whose stentorian delivery was perfect for the “just the facts, ma’am” context of the proceedings. He was memorialized at the end of the first episode of Forensic Files II, which aired on February 23, 2020.

The guilt-or-innocence outcome is never in doubt on these “Files” shows as regular viewers know that these dedicated forensics experts and “scientists” always get their man, or in some rare cases, their woman, even if it involves a white-coated bent-to-the-task technician painstakingly sifting through a vacuum-cleaner bag with a tweezers in search of a suspected rapist’s pubic hair.  (Actual episode.)  I would not be surprised if said scientist, bent to this disgusting, tedious task, found himself saying, “I spent 7 years in college, and I’m going through a massive heap of trash looking for a rapist’s pubic hair? While my idiot brother-in-law with a GED is making almost as much money driving a damn beer truck?”

--And, of course, what genre wouldn’t be complete with a podcast equivalent, and true crime is well represented in that idiom. These often devolve more into conjecture and oddball theorizing and are less documentarian in nature.  Sort of macabre talk shows with titles like “True Crime Junkie,” “True Crime Garage,” “Someone Knows Something,” “Court Junkie,” “Scam Goddess,” “Case File,” “My Favorite Murder,” and many many more.

And now comes word from the Washington Post that—in the spirit of If You Can’t Beat ’Em, Join ’Em—“Dateline” has also joined the podcast parade, a gambit that has propelled its TV version to new heights.  See:

Is there such a thing as binge-listening? Probably, and for some folks it’s apparently a great way to--wait for it--kill time.