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

Thursday, December 28, 2006


Here is my explanation for this posting:

I very much want the Cal Golden Bears to beat Texas A&M in the Holiday Bowl this evening. For one thing, I'm an Old Blue, an alum. For another thing, I want all Texas teams to lose all the time, for various reasons, but mainly because of the Cowboys and Bush and all that "Don't mess with" horseshit.

But I very much fear Cal will get its ass kicked by A&M. For one thing, because Cal looked very mediocre during its final three games, while A&M was knocking off Texas. For another thing, and this is far more significant:

Fate Loathes Me, And Works It So That Whatever I Wish To Occur Will Not Happen. It is the defining goal of Fate to see that I am disappointed.

Ah, but even more than that:

Fate Loathes Me, And Works It So That Whatever I Predict Will Happen Will Not Take Place. Exceeding even the disappointment goal, Fate's ultimate goal is to see to it that I look stupid and foolish.

Therefore, I hereby publicly and in black and white declare that Texas A&M will win the Holiday Bowl. Only an idiot could call this outcome wrong.

Anything for the team.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


The concept for this posting, because it's almost Christmas and you feel you should crank out SOMETHING in observance of the holiday, was going to be a short list of Christmas Carols Sung By Singularly Ironic Celebrities Or Public Figures.

Pretty simple, and certainly nothing remotely original. For example:
"White Christmas" by Michael Richards,
"What Child Is This?" by former Florida congressman Mark Foley,
and so forth.

But beyond that, executing the concept started becoming difficult. For instance, "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" by Ted Haggard requires that the reader recognize Haggard by name as the big-time evangelical preacher who copped to patronizing a male hooker. Similarly, for "Feliz Navidad" by Tom Tancredo to work, you've got to know that Tancredo (Rep., Colorado) is probably the most rabid foe of undocumented Latinos in the House of Representatives, which is going some.

And I'm sure any visitor to my little Mensa magnet would know that. Just as he or she would certainly know who our current Secretary of State is, and her recent travels on behalf of peace, and yet still might not get "Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem" by Condi Rice. In part because it's not particularly funny. "I'll Be Home For Christmas" by Donald Rumsfeld would be better, but not by much, being rather an inside-the-beltway joke.

There were some frustrating near misses. If only the song were titled "Do You See What I See?," I'd have a neat little celeb trio hat trick: Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton. But, number one, the title is "Do You Hear...," and number two, you may not have paid any attention to recent incidents of the gals being papparazied while emerging pantyless from low-slung motor cars. At least I hope you haven't.

And "Oh Tannenbaum" by Mel Gibson just seemed like too great a stretch.

I like "Joy To The World" by Dick Cheney for its sheer preposterous incongruity, but that might not be evident to the casual visitor. And you could plug in a variety of names there, from Osama bin Laden to the Rev. Fred Phelps. The gag is just too generic.

I'm sure there are some worthy possibilities out there, but they're simply not on the cultural radar of most of us. "We Three Kings" by the best poker player alive, for example, but who knows who that is? Or "Silent Night" by the mayor of Richmond, California, a town that echoes with nocturnal gunfire on a regular basis, but if you don't live in the Bay Area, you are mercifully unaware of this. Mayor of Las Vegas might work, though.

But even if it did, it would be too little, too late. The basic premise--droll disconnect between song and performer--is simply too thin, at least this year.
So I'm just going to skip it.
Happy Holidays to all who pass this way.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


After viewing a videotape of U.S. Senator Tim Johnson, who had undergone emergency surgery to relieve pressure on his brain, now awake, smiling, and giving the thumbs up from his bed in the hospital's post-op recovery unit, outgoing Senate Majority Leader and M.D. Bill Frist declared the South Dakota Democrat to be clinically dead.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


I'm a sucker for Christmas music. So much so that, just out of affection, as you can see, I actually write it out as "Christmas" music and not "Xmas" music. That's respect. I even to listen to it for an hour or so a day. Where I am, which is the San Francisco Bay Area, KOIT-FM hurls itself into All Holiday mode this time of year, and you hear a broad spectrum of the inevitable "Sounds of the Season" thereon.

And I'm not parochial or partial about it. I love the religious stuff, for example, because it's just flat out marvelous music. Some of this work was written by real titans, mind you. Handel, the Messiah guy, wrote "Joy to the World," eh? And "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" was composed by Felix Mendelssohn, who wasn't even Christian, and in fact took a peck of shit from Wagner for being Jewish. And "The First Noel" performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir still makes me just shake my head and go wow. I know you think I'm kidding, but the fact is, I went to a Lutheran school for the first four grades--which certainly turned out to be a wasted effort on behalf of the church, bless its heart--and singing this stuff in chorus at our school Christmas fests was always one of the best things about the holiday for me, and it still activates my warm nostalgia neuron, wizened though it is.

But I like the goofball songs, as well. Who doesn't find "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" running through their head this time of year? I include the Muppets version of "The 12 Days" and yes, even the Chipmunks.

Also, the straight but secular genre, your "Chestnuts Roasting" and "Let It Snow" and "I'll Be Home For Christmas" and so on. Great stuff. I'll admit that I'm a bit iffy with regard to rock carols, your "Blue Christmas" and "Jingle Bell Rock" and "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and the like. But I'm not ready to slam them.

The point is that it takes a truly artless and inane and phony and worthless piece of Christmas music to set my teeth on edge. There are very few of these, but as we enter this season of peace and giving and brotherhood, I think we should also take note of how even such a lovely holiday can be afflicted with the stench of raw crap. Here, off the top of my head, are the worst Christmas songs ever produced, presented in roughly ascending order of irksomeness.

"Holly Jolly Christmas" by Burl Ives. Some lyrics are so deliberately and blatantly moronic that your gag reflex revs up. For instance: "Have a holly jolly Christmas, and in case you didn't hear, oh my golly have a holly jolly Christmas this year." In case I didn't hear? You just sang the same goddam line, how could I not hear it? Do I look like a lawn ornament, or what? Yeah, it's just a silly little thing, I know, but it drives me nuts.

"Frosty the Snowman" by anyone, but particularly Gene Autry, who could have stopped with the perfectly charming "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer," but oh no, couldn't let well enough alone, especially in a situation that fairly cried out for a cheap musical sequel to capitalize on the Rudolph momentum. A pure exercise in avarice. Fie on Frosty. I leave tracks of yellow on Frosty.

"Melakeliki Maka" by some kind of 1940s Don Ho vocal group. I can't vouch for the spelling, which I've made a phonetic stab at, but according to the song it's "how we say Merry Christmas on a bright and warm Hawaiian Christmas day." This just doesn't work. Hawaii and Christmas simply don't go together. Think eggnog and poi. I can't imagine that native Hawaiians ever needed a word for "merry," let alone "Christmas." This is just more missionary brainwashing at work. There exists a whole society of Christians in Lebanon, and I'm sure there's a Lebanese phrase for "Merry Christmas," but that doesn't mean you need to enshrine it in song. Same principle at work here. Shut up and surf. (And before I get accused of racism or Eurocentrism, I'm just fine with "Feliz Navidad.")

"My Grown Up Christmas List" by Barbra Streisand. I'm grown up now and what I want for Christmas is peace and kindness and humanitarianism, or as the lyrics put it, "everyone to have a friend, and right to always win, and love to never dim," and at this point you drive your car into a light standard just to short out the radio. "We snuck into Bob's Christmas and replaced Santa Claus with Oprah Winfrey. Let's see if he shits." Thanks for dragging me back to reality and its endless supply of anti-cheer.

"Christmas in San Francisco" by God only knows who, but it sounds like he probably wrote it himself. Indeed, it sounds as if a chimpanzee or parakeet could have written it. San Francisco blah blah wonderful blah blah fog blah blah greatest place on earth. The lyrics make "I Left My Heart" sound like Shakespeare wrote it. This offal would be an insult to Tulsa or Duluth, let alone S.F. In any other city in the world they would use the CD as a coaster. Shame on KOIT. (Note: this is not to be confused with "It's Christmas Once Again in San Francisco," a kind of incongruously country treatment that has a little fun with the Bay Area's whole no-sleighs-or-snowmen classic yuletide disconnect.)

"Last Christmas I Gave You My Heart" by some mooning, resentful female singer whose identity I don't even care to know. That may not be the actual name of the song, but its refrain--repeated over and over and OVER relentlessly--is, "Last Christmas I gave you my heart, the very next day you gave it away, something something tears, this year I'll give it to someone special..." Basically, she went to bed with some guy from marketing after the office party last year and he never called or even e-mailed and she's still bitter. This isn't a carol; it's not even about Christmas--it makes no other reference to the holiday than the "last Christmas" phrase. It could have been the Labor Day picnic! She's just venting! (Indeed, it's probably no coincidence, or surprise, that every year come December this woman is on KOIT, singing the same song, year after year.) And the music is even worse than the lyrics.

"Rapping at Christmas." By any rap or hip hop group or singer. I've never heard, or even heard tell of, any Christmas rap music, but I'm sure it's out there--something on the order of "All I Want for Christmas is My New Front Grillz" or "Violent Night"-- and eventually KOIT will play some. And I'll hate it.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


For almost 15 years, Gloria and I slavishly observed a holiday schedule that had her heading out on a three-day drive down to Long Beach every December 21 or so--we can be specific about the date because it always seemed somehow ironic to us that each year, on the first leg of her winter trek south, we spent the shortest day of the year and also, for her springtime trip south, the longest day of the year, at the Butterfly Lodge in Pacific Grove, California, which lies cheek by jowl and immediately south of Monterey.

She made the pilgrimage to her parents' home in December and June each year with an almost mechanical regularity until her dad George passed away several years ago. Part of the ritual was that I would drive separately to her first night's lodging where we would spend the night, parting the next morning. And we almost always stayed at the Butterfly Lodge, because it enjoyed the two absolute requirements to qualify for our patronage, which were and continue to be (1) that it has a pool, and (2) that it accepts dogs.

I don't know that Gloria actually swam in the Butterfly Lodge pool more than two or three times, and those were always on our June 21 (or thereabouts) visits. There were other lodgings in the immediate area that took dogs, and we bunked at one or more of them on occasion, just to check out the terrain, but always returned to the Butterfly. And I can't exactly say why. We were disappointed by the happy hour fare they offered in the late afternoons, although you couldn't beat the breakfasts. And to reiterate, Glo very rarely used the pool. But the location offered two terrific dog walks, one along the ocean, the other along an old railroad spur line a few blocks inland.

Why I bring this up, is that it occurs to me every now and then to wonder if the staff at the Butterfly, whose paying guests we were twice a year most (but not all) years from around 1989 to 2003, ever wonder about us. Why we no longer show up as we reliably did with, literally, the solstices each year. What may have became of us, that couple that always had a yellow lab and the woman always wore hats. Whether our absence is indicative of some unhappy experience and, even worse, one that might somehow show up on their AAA review.

Of course, I like to think that somewhere down at the Lodge there is a sage and savvy veteran housekeeper who now and then recalls our visits and nods to a young protege and surmises, "I got a sawbuck says she killed him in his sleep."