"Humor Me" says Robert S. "Bob" Wieder

Monday, May 30, 2005


This is unquestionably my favorite sports story of the week...

AP --MIAMI -- 5/26/05 -- He's Shaquille O'Neal, basketball star and undercover officer. The 7-foot-1, 325-pound Miami Heat center, who has a fascination with law enforcement, was recently sworn in as a U.S. deputy marshal. He spent six hours on a Saturday afternoon with Miami Beach police investigators helping with cases.
O'Neal has joined a Department of Justice task force that tracks down sexual predators who target children on the Internet. He is becoming familiar with the techniques and software that officers use to track down the predators, said Miami Beach Police Chief Don De Lucca. And he spends countless hours on his home computer, logging into the police network and learning the ropes.
"I put a lot into it, and when I am done playing, I plan on going undercover and then being the sheriff or chief of police somewhere, either Miami or Orlando, I don't know yet," O'Neal said recently.

Shaquille O'Neal, undercover cop. I can't wait. Secret Agent XXXXL. What exactly is he going to do, dress as a house? Is inconspicuousness no longer considered an aid in surveillance? Was Alice Cooper unavailable for the job? "The street gangs, assuming that I was merely a statue that the NBA had erected on the sidewalk, never knew what hit them when the raid came down at the conclusion of my six-week assignment." We could team him with Richard Simmons, or Carrot Top. I know, I'd better just shut up now. You never know when he might be listening.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


I routinely come across a variety of reality quirks in my Internet wanderings and don’t have any other use for them. Here are a handful of them. They come from sources about as reputable as any these days, and to the best of my knowledge are factually true.

Medicinal marijuana is legal in Canada, which seems somehow appropriate for a country whose flag is a leaf. In fact, weed is supplied to certified users at $150 for 30 grams by Health Canada, the country’s national health agency, which gets it from a growing outfit called Prairie Plant Systems. As you might expect given a pot farm with “Systems” in its name--or for that matter, with a name, period--almost none of the 600-odd Canadian citizens who are licensed to get legally loaded will touch the stuff. They eschew and revile it as being weak, ineffective, and tasting of chemicals. Perhaps these characteristics have to do with the fact that Prairie Plant Systems grows its pot in Flin Flan, Manitoba...IN AN ABANDONED MINE SHAFT. Honest! This is what happens when government goes into the illicit drug business. Give that some thought before you buy into the “Let’s decriminalize, control and oversee it” line.

“Cell chords” are a clinician’s term for raw, sore and blistered vocal chords, sometimes with nodules that require surgery, which afflict persons who chronically and prolongedly talk too loudly into their cell phones. I only mention this painful malady because it suggests that there might actually be a God.

The Jesus Christians is the catchy but unoriginal name of a religious cult which originated in Australia and is now spreading into the U.S. Among its other compelling spiritual qualities is its fundamental tenet that its followers should masturbate as a substitute for and preventive against marriage. The rim shot: “It’s the only church where the prayer books have a centerfold.” And the pages commonly get stuck together. And instead of crossing themselves, members of the flock kind of make a fist and...well, you get the picture.

Friday, May 20, 2005


Our group was composed of Boomers, and our topic of discussion had somehow became: If you were giving a graduation speech to a group of high school seniors and you wanted to impart one essential bit of advice, boiled down into just enough words to put on a desk plaque, what would that saying, slogan, moral of homily be?

There were the obvious hard-to-argue answers, such as “Do unto others” and “Be true to yourself.” Some were soullessly pragmatic -- ”Buy low, sell high” -- while others fairly pranced with impracticality -- ”Live for the moment.”

The conversation deteriorated into wiseass cynicism -- ”Don’t ask, don’t tell”...“Move to New Zealand”...“Duck!” -- and we proceeded to another subject.

But the question stuck in my mind, and it was only several days later, when I was going through some old keepsakes (or crap, as other members of the household might say), and found myself skimming through a cultural handbook of my childhood, that I happened upon the two words which, I’m surprised to say, I would choose as my nugget of wisdom.

I say “surprised” because I am, for better or worse, a cultural creation of the 1960s, with years spent earnestly alienated from and calculatedly contrary toward what has come to be popularly called “traditional values.” And yet, the advice that I stumbled upon and would give today is as much a part of those values as the Boy Scout motto.

In fact, it is the Boy Scout motto.

“Be prepared.”

It’s a phrase that I associate with a bygone era, the mid-1930s to late 1950s, a sentiment straight out of “Grit” and the Eisenhower administration. But as I thought about it, I became increasingly convinced that it’s more valid and valuable now than ever.

Never in history has cultural and technological change been as rapid, continual and pervasive as it is today. Never has there been so much to try to anticipate and get a handle on. And so I would say, “Here it is in a nutshell, kid. Be prepared.” And if the person on the receiving end of this wisdom were to reply “What kind of crap are you talking now?” or otherwise press me to elaborate, I would gladly oblige.

For openers, I would say, be prepared in the literal Scouting sense. Have on hand those things that you tend to need and use. In this category are matches, sunscreen, bandages, bus fare, clean underwear, extra glasses, and the like, depending on individual proclivities. You know who you are.

Be prepared for emergencies. Not so much in terms of specific material readiness, such as having bottled water and highway flares and extra batteries and an escape route. Rather, prepare yourself for the very idea and inevitability of emergencies; not necessarily catastrophes, but sudden, unexpected, and pressing crises and problems that you have to cope with right now and with little or no planning or experience. Such emergencies, taken in sum, will consume more waking hours of your life than high school.

Be prepared -- indeed, more than at any time in history -- when it comes to sex, for reasons so obvious and numerous I won’t waste any more space on them.

Be prepared to be called upon to do some of the damnedest things, including things you presently assume that you definitely cannot do and never could or would do. Be prepared to learn that you can in fact do these things, and in some cases, embarrassingly well. (This is specifically applicable to infant hygiene and dining in foreign lands.)

Be prepared to alter or give up ingrained or established ways of thinking, behaving, and working. Three illustrative little words: Communism, computers, smoking. In 1975, each one meant unimaginably more, or less, or otherwise than it does today. And who could have guessed? The world is chock full of such words, and adds to their number every day, but they’re all basically just line-item synonyms for “change.” Just be prepared for change, period, and you’re halfway covered, kid.

Be prepared to have to choose between popularity and integrity, between pleasure and responsibility, between expediency and honesty, and however you choose, be prepared to have regrets later.

Be prepared to wind up making a living in way you never expected, possibly to the point of astonishment when you stop to think about it. Expect to stop to think about it frequently. The odds are about equal that you’ll find yourself doing either better or worse than you’d hoped by whatever yardstick you use to measure success, but either way, be prepared for that to not last.

Be prepared to be downsized, outsourced, displaced, disengaged, terminated, sacked, canned, punted, shelved, fired or otherwise removed from your job. Remember that you are not what you do for a living, and that any ideas to the contrary become painfully counterproductive when you’re out of work and already predisposed to feel like fresh shit.

Be prepared for criticism and denunciation, which are unpleasant but manageable, and for praise and acclaim, which are pleasant but tricky, seductive, and sometimes dangerously misleading.

Be prepared to wind up marrying someone other than Your Perfect Ideal Mate. In fact, be prepared to never actually meet, or even know the identity of, Your Perfect Ideal Mate, or any living person who comes seriously close. By the same token, be prepared to never quite locate that Perfect Ideal career, home, dog, climate, sound system, tennis racket, getaway, or lip gloss. Be prepared to decide that it’s probably just as well.

Be prepared to discover at some point down the line that you actually love, or hate, or espouse, or respect, or oppose, or fear, or enjoy, or believe in, or have renounced things, persons, ideas and lifestyles that you never envisioned you would. One of the defining conversational preambles of our time is, “If you’d told me 20 years ago that...” Be prepared to find yourself using it routinely.

Be prepared for your children’s inability or unwillingness to meet your expectations, since that is not, after all, their job. Be prepared to deal with not being their respected role model, and with the harsh reality that some half-inch-deep celebrity, musician, actor or athlete is.

Be prepared for them to pursue goals, engage in activities, cultivate tastes, indulge desires, embrace values, develop passions and make choices that are dismayingly unlike yours and that make no sense to you whatsoever. (This isn’t to say that they automatically will, but hey, look at how you turned out.) Be prepared for whatever eye-rolling fashion trend in body modification arises to eclipse piercing and tattooing.

Be prepared for terrific-looking clothing and furniture to not fit or not match, for delicious recipes to not work, your friends to not like each other, items to not function as well as they did in the store and inspired ideas to fail to pan out. Be prepared to be wrong, look foolish and get the blame, because these are recurring themes of the human condition, and if you take them personally, with shock and indignation, you’re just asking for frustration, anger and trouble.

Be prepared to lose big-time, to make big mistakes, to never learn the answers to the big questions and to go forth anyway.

And finally, be prepared for the inevitable: growing old. Ask people who have real experience in this regard, age 80 and above, and they’ll tell you: “You can’t believe how soon it arrives, you’re never ready.”

At least try to set aside as much of a nest egg as possible. You’ll almost certainly need it, and almost certainly earlier than you figure, and almost certainly without significant support from your government or employers. Whether you cherish or despise our economic system, the truth is that money can buy you time, and comfort, and security, and someday all those things will count a lot to you. So be...you know.

Of course, I would point out to any young recipient of this advice that each individual’s experience will be unique and may involve virtually all, or some, or almost none of the above particulars in varying combinations. Life is a journey for us all, but your own mileage may differ. Who knows what will happen?

I’m just saying: Be prepared.

Thursday, May 12, 2005


James Dean has been in the news lately, which is fairly impressive for someone who’s been dead for nearly half a century. I’m not sure exactly why he’s been popping up on the media radar--it’s probably the anniversary of something, but not his death,which did take place 50 years ago, 1955, but in September, a bit of trivia that I possess only because of friend and comedian Larry “Bubbles” Brown, who was born on the very day Dean was killed--the only thing that he has, or possibly could have, in common with James Dean.

In any case, a couple of these tributes to Dean included one of the great expressions of raw optimism in human history:
“Just think what he might have done if only he’d lived.”

Someone, somewhere will utter that wistful incantation whenever we land on a calendar date that coincides with some popular dead celebrity’s “premature” demise--John F. Kennedy, John Candy, Tupac Shakur, David Koresh (you know who your idols are). But that may be giving the famed departed too much benefit of the doubt. Look at all the celebrated figures who peaked early and then went into long, embarrasing declines: Kevin Costner, Elton John, Jerry Brown, Whoopi Goldberg, etc. Like Elvis, some of our fallen heroes may have died not a moment too soon, image-wise. When you consider the possible condition many of them might actually be in now, their lives today could be even more depressing than their deaths were. For example...


Age: 37.
Current Occupation/Activity: Assistant Director, U.S. Army Band
Pivotal Event: After near-overdose on heroin in 1994, joined the Army for “some desperately-needed discipline and order in my life.”
Career Highlight: Personally meeting Charlton Heston while performing at George W. Bush’s 2001 Inaugural Ball.
Controversy: Wife Courtney Love’s 1995 death due to blunt trauma from repeated blows with guitar, ruled a suicide.
Recent Achievement: Wrote “Battle Hymn For Dutch” in honor of late President Ronald Reagan.
Personal Hero: Ted Nugent.
Quote: “Give me a clean, crisp uniform and a Sousa march and I’m in heaven.”


Age: 46.
Current Occupation/Activity: Founder and owner, Vicious Circle Bible School, Branson, Mo.
Pivotal Event: Claimed to have met, spoken with, and “got the Holy Spirit pounded up me arse” by Jesus Christ during an extended ecstasy binge, 1981.
Career Highlight: Baptized by Johnny Cash during their joint appearance at the Nebraska State Fair, 1983.
Controversy: Criticized for series of mass burnings of CDs and other recordings by Eminem, Michael Jackson, Prince and other “devil music” performers.
Recent Achievement: Organized a “Christian intervention to bring Glen Campbell back to glory.”
Personal Hero: Billy Graham.
Quote: “Wanking is just a way of hitchhiking to hell.”


Age: 61.
Current Occupation: Assistant manager, Transient Vista Trailer Court, Stockton, California.
Pivotal Event: Voice became so painfully raspy that numerous listeners’ hearing was permanently impaired, ending her singing career in 1976.
Career Highlight: Induction into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland in 1995.
Controversy: Arrested for drunk and disorderly, indecent exposure, and soliciting sex acts at her induction ceremony into the R&R Hall of Fame.
Recent Achievement: Hit the California Lottery for $16,000, which she plans to spend on dental work.
Personal Hero: Fran Drescher.
Quote: “Sixteen grand! Hot damn! Can’t wait to hab teef again.”


Age: 55.
Current Occupation/Activity: Member, Utah state Moral Standards Board; Chairman, CADD (Comedians Against Drunk Driving).
Pivotal Event: Deeply shocked by the 1980 death of friend Robin Williams due to substance abuse, moved to Salt Lake City and became an outspoken proponent of “clean and sober living.”
Career Highlight: Led nationwide sponsor boycott that forced “abuse friendly” TV shows Cheers and Saturday Night Live off the air.
Controversy: Publicly vilified for hypocrisy by ex-partner Dan Aykroyd: “It’s pathetic. John’s been about as funny as a high colonic since he dried out.”
Recent Achievement: Won state GOP nomination to run for Utah Attorney General.
Personal Hero: Donny Osmond.
Quote: “I love brother Aykroyd, but I fear I’ll wind up attending his funeral.”


Age: 64
Current Occupation/Activity: Entertainment, real estate, and gambling mogul.
Pivotal Event: After barely surviving a 1980 assassination attempt, renounced “all that peace-and-love claptrap” to embrace a life of material wealth and self-indulgent hedonism.
Career Highlight: 1991 nationwide “Our Way” tour with Frank Sinatra and Wayne Newton.
Controversy: Purchased the alleged Sacred Shroud of Turin for $6,000,000, which he had made into a halter top as a wedding gift for wife number four, Madonna.
Recent Achievement: Purchase of Playboy mansion from Hugh Hefner to celebrate the opening of his newest “All You Need Is Luck” casino.
Personal Hero: Donald Trump.
Quote: “I’m richer than Jesus and it’s bloody great. I can’t even imagine not having all my possessions. So shoot me.”


Age: 73.
Current Occupation/Activity: “Cranky old oilman” character in “Giant portions” TV ad campaign for Denny’s restaurants.
Pivotal Event: Incredibly miscast in a series of resounding and costly flops (“Gigi,” “Dr. No,” “The Music Man,” “The Pink Panther,” “Shaft”), his film career ends when he is turned down for a part in ”Police Academy 3.”
Career Highlight: Replaced the late Cliff Arquette (“Charlie Weaver”) on Hollywood Squares, 1975-77.
Controversy: Notorious and ill-fated “marriage” to fellow actor Sal Mineo, 1978.
Recent Achievement: Re-qualified for AFTRA health coverage and medical benefits.
Personal Hero: Dick Van Dyke.
Quote: “Hell, I’m just happy to have the work. Anyway, it beats what Brando’s doing these days.”


Martin Luther King, 75: After the civil rights movement lost popular momentum, became a millionaire with his chain of “Dem Bones” BBQ restaurants... denounced by Bill Cosby and other black militants for selling the company to Phillip Morris ...says “I had a dream, and this is pretty much it. Let him who is without sin make me a better offer.”

Robert F. Kennedy, 79: After 1971 assassination of younger brother Teddy, became an obsessive, lifelong proponent of the death penalty...officiated at his 200th execution last May...awarded Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush...says “Some see the gas chamber and ask ‘Why?’ I see the gas chamber and ask ‘Why not?’”

Jimi Hendrix, 62: His health nearly ruined by rock stardom, joined with Jim Morrison to form hugely successful duo writing and performing ad jingles for Texaco, CitiBank, Kelloggs...vitriolic breakup when each claimed credit for Clio-winning “You Can’t Handle My Whopper” for Burger King...now performs at High School assemblies sponsored by Planned Parenthood...denies rumors that it was he who gave AIDS to Buddy Holly.

Marilyn Monroe, 78: Ballooned up to 260 pounds after brutal beating at the hands of Jackie Kennedy and banishment from White House in 1966...completed a grueling weight-loss program at Liz Taylor Self Esteem Clinic...arrested for stalking Martin Sheen...marketing a new line of signature “sexy seniors” caftans at Wal-Mart.

Thursday, May 05, 2005


You'd think that the first American writer to have his own bobble-head doll included in the official Baseball Hall of Fame bobble-head doll collection at Cooperstown would have been someone on the order of Roger Kahn, or Roger Angel, or even Ernest Lawrence Thayer ("Casey at the Bat"), but no. That honor went, on Wednesday, to Jack Kerouac. The Kerouac bobble-head was commissioned by the minor league Lowell (Mass.) Spinners in 2001 as part of a promotional event. Other than the fact that Jack was a Lowell native, I don't know that he had any connection with the team or, for that matter, the sport. The Spinners cranked out 1,500 of them before destroying the mold, and given the sheer uniqueness, rarity and oddness of the concept, I'm guessing that each one is now probably worth its weight in Reggie Jackson rookie cards. The Cooperstown folks offered some vague blurbish "treasured American literary figure" blather by way of explanation for Kerouac's totemic induction, but I'm still unclear on why they bestowed this honor on him. One could kill a lot of time at this point making insipid wordplays -- On The Road Trip, Dharma / Brooklyn Bums, and so forth, but one suspects that he's already exhausted the average person's interest in this item.