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

Friday, January 26, 2007


Actual news item today:

"NEW YORK (AP) - Available soon from City Hall: an official New York condom in a jazzy wrapper, perhaps one printed with a colourful subway map or some other city theme.
New York City hands out 1.5 million free condoms a month in ordinary wrappers, and health officials figure people would be more likely to actually use them if the packaging were more distinctive."

Yes indeed, nothing puts me in an amorous mood faster than images of the New York subway system. And who wouldn't want to insert their manhood into something that calls to mind a subway train roaring down the tracks. Presumably, they'll be available in urine- and vomit-scented versions. With little slogans printed thereon, such as "Get your freakin hands off me, asshole!" and "You call that a dick?"

I am reminded of a bit I used to do onstage...
"I just read where Safeway is going to start selling their own brand name condoms, which I thought was in questionable taste until it occurred to me that it's hard to come up with a better, more appropriate name for condoms than...Safe way.
Well, of course, maybe...Lucky.
Or...Pay 'n Pak.
Piggly Wiggly.
Never mind."

Then Lucky supermarkets was bought out by Albertson's, and the comedy scene dried up; a one-two punch that convinced me to retire. Que sera.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


All the recent harrou over Barry Bonds' alleged use of speed, coming on the heels of the Great Steroids Uproar, provoked me to do a swift scan of Ball Four, the first great inside baseball tell-all book, written by major league pitcher Jim Bouton in 1970. Note that year. 1970. 37 seasons ago.

My little search for irony produced four relevent excerpts, reproduced verbatim below. My favorite would have to be the last one, which depicts a kind of chemical prequel to roid rage.

As some notable foreign personage--I'm thinking either Churchill, Einstein, or Tokyo Rose--once said, "To understand America, you must understand baseball."
True enough, brother.

"How fabulous are greenies?" The answer is very. Greenies are pep pills -- dextroamphetamine sulfate -- and a lot of baseball players couldn't function without them. [p. 80]

We've been running short of greenies. We don't get them from the trainer, because greenies are against club policy. So we get them from players on other teams who have friends who are doctors, or friends who know where to get greenies. One of our lads is going to have a bunch of greenies mailed to him by some of the guys on the Red Sox. And to think you can spend five years in jail for giving your friend a marijuana cigarette. [p. 159]

At dinner Don Mincher, Marty Pattin and I discussed greenies. They came up because (John) O'Donoghue had just received a season supply of 500. "They ought to last bout a month," I said.
Mincher was a football player in high school and he said, "If I had greenies in those days I'd have been something else."
"Minch, how many major-league ballplayers do you think take greenies?" I asked. "Half? More?"
"Hell, a lot more than half," he said. "Just about the whole Baltimore team takes them. Most of the Tigers. Most of the guys on this club. [Seattle Pilots, pre-Mariners] And that's just what I know for sure." [p. 198]

John Kennedy flew into a rage at [umpire] Emmett Ashford over a called strike and was tossed out of the game. Still raging, he kicked in the water cooler in the dugout, picked it up and threw it onto the field. Afterward we asked him what had gotten into him. He really isn't that type. And he said, "Just as I got called out on strikes, my greenie kicked in." [p. 206]

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


On CNN this afternoon Wolf Blitzer--whose first name I originally dismissed as far too contrived and precious until it dawned on me that it's probably short for the very common and unpretentious Wolfgang--mentioned a pro-surge political organization called CALM, for the Campaign for American Leadership in the Middle-East.

I had an immediate problem with that name. It a way, it's even more aggravating than Wolf would be even if Wolf were an affectation. It's an example of what you might call the Labored Acronym Syndrome, in which individual words must be arranged in an unnatural, even uncomfortable sequence simply to justify an easily-remembered acronym. Even worse, the name is larded with articles and conjunctions that are simply omitted from the final acroname. In this case, fully eight words are reduced to a mere four letters. (The hyphen in Middle-East is nothing but a cheap ploy to delete the final E.) Why do they do these things, I wonder.

And in this case, the answer comes to me immediately. The more efficient, natural phrasing of the organization's title would be Campaign for American Middle Eastern Leadership. Makes sense. Rolls right off the tongue. Won't be used in a thousand years. Why? Because the resulting acronym would be CAMEL.

Is it possible that people in that part of the world would take great and indignant offense? Gee, I don't know. Is the Mullah Omar a Muslim? Does a dromedary shit in the dunes?

Monday, January 15, 2007


There has been much questioning in the media the last few days as to why newly-freed Shawn Hornbeck, who was kidnapped by Michael Devlin at age 11 in 2002, never made an attempt to escape from Devlin on one of the many occasions on which it would have been easy and totally safe to simply walk away and go, if not home, at least to the nearest police station. The answer seems fairly obvious to me.

Not to be needlessly harsh or superficial about it, but have you seen his mother and stepdad? Have you heard them express themselves? These people would lower property values at a Bakersfield trailer camp. Looking at stepdad, one can only think, as I did, "Jesus, I hope I never lose that many teeth." As for mom, she looks like she could have posed for the label on a bottle of iodine. My guess is that even at age 11, they gave Shawn the willies.

Note that Shawn's parents go by the last name of Akers, while Shawn chose to remain a Hornbeck. When my mom remarried, I took my stepfather's name. It was my way of indicating that I wished to be part of, and identified with, my family. Shawn evidently didn't quite feel that way.

Boiled down, I think he stayed with Devlin for five years because Devlin never made him watch "Hee Haw" re-runs.

Friday, January 12, 2007


As noted in previous Bloggage postings, I'm reasonably confident of the validity of each of these randomly culled items, and have more-or-less respected sources for each. Read and enjoy...

According to research by the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, the 25 most commonly used nouns in English are: time, person, year, way, day, thing, man, world, life, hand, part, child, eye, woman, place, work, week, case, point, government, company, number, group, problem, and fact. Given the absence of my own favorite three-letter noun, it's reasonable to conclude that the researchers were not talking to the right, or at least the most likely to reproduce, people.

Under the heading of Long Overdue Technological Advances I hereby pass on the announcement by South Korean cell phone manufacturer LG that it will shortly begin marketing the new LP4100 model, which includes a breathalyzer feature that, when the user blows into it, flashes a warning if he or she has a blood alcohol level over .08, and even more valuable, can be programmed to prevent the user from calling certain ill-advised phone numbers while hammered. I trust the Nobel nominating committee will take notice. Then again, no I don't.

The price of a sneeze-free, hypoallergenic cat, bred through selective genetic divergence, for those who love but are allergic to cats: $4,500.

The amount that the Department of Homeland Security has budgeted to prevent terrorists from playing bingo for money in Kentucky, and I swear this is true: $36,200. The amount the DHS has budgeted to provide a trailer for the Madisonville, Texas October Mushroom Festival, same as above: $30,000.

According to a National Drivers Test survey, roughly 18 million current licensed drivers in the US would flunk a state driver's test if they took one today.

The estimated number of front groups that have been funded by Exxon Mobil since the late 1980s and devoted to publicly denying, refuting, belittling or minimizing the notion of global warming: 40.

At least $70,000 in bets were placed with the offshore gambling Web site PinnacleSports.com this year on the outcome of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Odds that the winner would be wearing glasses were 4-to-7.

Since major league baseball imposed a strict new ban and testing program for steroids in 2005, home runs have increased by 9 percent, from an average 2.06 per game to 2.25. 47 percent of baseball fans surveyed think this is evidence that players are still using performance-juicing drugs.

It's estimated that 10 percent of worldwide music industry revenues now come just from ringtone sales.

The number of Americans who claimed Wiccan as their religion in 1990: 8,000. In 2001: 134,000.

According to a sex survey published in 2001 in The Portland Mercury, 6 percent of those polled claimed to have had sex with fruit, while 10 percent admit to doing the bad thing with vegetables.

Friday, January 05, 2007


Mom's mail was interesting today.

Mom is in a nursing home and has been since mid-2002. At her request, I had taken over the management of her financial and medical affairs a year or so before that. As a consequence, I've been getting her mail, of which the vast majority for several years was either from conservative political (read: GOP) groups asking for money, or fundamentalist Christian (read: religious snake oil salesmen) groups asking for money.

I never sent money, which will hardly come as news to anyone who knows me even a little bit. So there are considerably fewer solicitations of funds coming Mom's way these days, given a good five years of thoroughly unresponsive behavior on her/our part.

But every now and then, we get one. A live one. Some sucker who bought an obviously outdated mailing list based on something fiduciary that Mom did back in the days when she was enthralled by Rush Limbaugh and/or Pat Robertson, and donated to various of their copious, ideologically mercenary ilk.

In any case, those two wings of the American Eagle model 2007 came a-flapping in a recent mail, in the form of a large and softly bulgy manila envelope from the American Bible Society. The envelope had two messages, or maxims, or slogans, or statements of principle, printed on its front.
One of them was "One Nation, Under God, Indivisible; With Liberty And Justice For All."
The other was "Free Gift Enclosed."
Those two declarations, or quotes, or what have you, seem to pretty much sum up the twin underlying sentiments of the Patriotic American circa 2007. Number One: Freedom, Justice, God, all good things, that's us. Number Two: Free stuff! Can't beat that!

Given the bulge, and the return address, I reckoned that the American Bible Society had sent my formerly financially participatory Christian mom something on the order of, well, say, a Bible.

Ha. Bob, you idiot.

Inside, there was an American flag.

There was also a form letter. It was essentially not unlike at least 100 letters of financial solicitation Mom has gotten since I've been intercepting her mail. Here is just a taste. (The parenthetical comments, of course, are mine.)

"My dear friend in Christ,
What would you most likely want in your backpack if you were fighting in Iraq?"
(Well, Rumsfeld's head in a plastic bag sounds about right, or maybe Cheney's balls, or, well, there must be some part of Condy Rice that would fill the bill, although nothing comes quickly to mind.)

"What would you most likely want at your bedside if your son or daughter, grandson or granddaughter was deployed in Iraq?"
(Shouldn't that "was" be a "were"? Sorry, I'm not thinking straight. Imagining that a beloved family member is enmeshed in the ghastliness of the Iraq war has me a bit rattled. At my bedside? Let's see...I've already used up 'Rumsfeld's head in a plastic bag,' right? Geez, this is a toughie. I suspect what I'd most like would be someone from the government with a blank check for whatever emotional or physical damage my relative might sustain over there. No, wait, what the hell, I'm going with Bush's head in a bag.)

In any case, the gist of the mailing was that the American Bible Society -- "Sharing God's Word with the World," a motto that reveals an astonishing unawareness of seven centuries of vigorous Christian proselytizing worldwide -- wants to send Bibles to our troops overseas. Again, to cite the mailer:
"Our goal is to raise $300,000 so that we can distribute Scriptures in the next 12 months to our military. Please send $25 today, to distribute 25 New Testaments to 25 brave Americans."

Which just raises so MANY theological and ideological and otherogical questions. Such as...

What about fearful or even cowardly (as opposed to brave) Americans? No Bibles, or appropriately invigorated faith, for them? Is that the harsh verdict of the ABS?

New Testaments? What happened to the Old Testaments? Is more emphasis on Christian vs. non-Christian theology really what our involvement in the middle east needs right now?

If it costs $1 per Bible to send the Word to the Warriors, and there are only about 140,000 US troops in target battlefield Iraq, what are the other 160,000 or so Bibles for? Does the American Bible Society know something about future troop increases that we don't?

I'm not going to drag this out any further--although there are other elements of the ABS mailer, such as it's Call To Action, that I may want to sink my teeth into at a later time--but I do feel compelled to make one more observation. The flag, a nice, ersatz-nylon type about 56 inches by 34 inches, is quite lovely, and I would be delighted to wave or fly or otherwise display it on some occasion which I truly considered a milestone in the advancement of American freedom and justice for all, such as the day that it was announced that Antonin Scalia had been eaten by sows.

In the meantime, however, I am left to mull over the fact that the flag, even if produced in some Myanmar sweat shop, probably cost the ABS around 50 cents a pop. So, every two flags they send out on spec equals one less Bible sent to G.I.Joe, to guarantee the entree of his immortal soul into the joy and grace of...oops, too late, just got his ass blown away by one of them Improvised Explosive Devices.

And no Bible. Damn.