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March 29, 2011

11:17
A.M.

Chatological Humor: Updated April 5 | April 12 | April 19

Total Responses: 84

About the hosts

About the host

Host: Gene Weingarten

Gene Weingarten

Gene Weingarten is the humor writer for The Washington Post. His column, Below the Beltway, has appeared weekly in the Post's Sunday magazine since July 2000 and has been distributed nationwide on The Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing in 2008 and 2010.

About the topic

Gene Weingarten's humor column, Below the Beltway, appears every Sunday in The Washington Post magazine. It is syndicated nationally by the Washington Post Writers Group.

At one time or another, Below the Beltway has managed to offend persons of both sexes as well as individuals belonging to every religious, ethnic, regional, political and socioeconomic group. If you know of a group we have missed, please write in and the situation will be promptly rectified. "Rectified" is a funny word.

On one Tuesday each month, Gene is online to take your questions and abuse. This month, that day is Tuesday, March 29 at Noon ET. He will chat about anything. Although this chat is sometimes updated between live shows, it is not and never will be a "blog," even though many persons keep making that mistake. One reason for the confusion is the Underpants Paradox: Blogs, like underpants, contain "threads," whereas this chat contains no "threads" but, like underpants, does sometimes get funky and inexcusable.

Please take this week's polls:

Poll 1: Cartoon and poetry poll

Poll 2: Not-niceness poll (Men | Women)

Poll 3: Niceness poll

Important, secret note to readers: The management of The Washington Post apparently does not know this chat exists, or it would have been shut down long ago. Please do not tell them. Thank you.

Weingarten is also the author of "The Hypochondriac's Guide to Life. And Death," co-author of "I'm with Stupid," with feminist scholar Gina Barreca and "Old Dogs: Are the Best Dogs," with photographer Michael S. Williamson.

New to Chatological Humor? Read the FAQ.

Ed's Note: If composing your questions in Microsoft Word please turn off the Smart Quotes functionality or use WordPad. I haven't the time to edit them out.
Q.

Gene Weingarten :

One of the classic tropes of humor writing is making fun of the stupid.   Losers are a hilarious genre, one I have explored many times.    But last week I happened upon an individual who I believe, it can be safely said, is the World's Biggest Loser.    His story has been told before, though I had never seen it.    I shall now relay to you the tale of David Jonathan Winkelman. 

Mr. Winkelman, a 38 year old man from Davenport, Iowa, was listening to the radio one day in 2000 when he heard a disc jockey for the local classic rock station 93 KORB  promise a 6-figure payout to anyone who had the rock station's logo tattooed on his forehead.      Recognizing irony and satire was not Mr. Winkelman's strongpoint, nor that of his stepbrother, neither of whom realized this was a joke.    So the two men promptly set off for a tattoo parlor. 

When they arrived at the radio station to claim their prize, they were informed -- diplomatically, no doubt -- that they were the biggest idiots on earth.  They sued.  Their suit was thrown out on the grounds that -- I am summarizing here -- that they were the biggest idiots on earth.    To add insult to injury, shortly afterwards the radio station changed its call letters and its format to easy listening.  Mr. Winkelman's forehead was now not just moronic, but wrong.    

The story would end here -- two enormous losers, slinking off into Loserville, where they would live forever in anonymous ignominy and never set foot out of their houses -- except that's not how losers do it.   The great denizens of Loserville take another turn at bat with their Loserville Sluggers.    And so it is that recently Mr.  Winkelman got hisself arrested for using a car without permission.   That meant that, finally, there is ... a mug shot!  

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. David Jonathan Winkeleman.  

Q.

Gene Weingarten :

Do you remember The Peekaboo Paradox, my story about The Great Zucchini?   In it I tried to explain the origins of humor as a reflex hard-wired from infancy.   This is from the story: 

"Even before they respond to a tickle, most babies will laugh at peekaboo.  It's their first "joke."  They are reacting to a sequence of events that begins with the presence of a familiar, comforting face.   Then, the face disappears, and you can read in the baby's expression momentary puzzle and alarm.  When the face reappears, everything is orderly in the baby's world again.  Anxiety is banished and the baby reacts with her very first laugh. 

"At its heart, laughter is a tool to triumph over fear.  As we grow older our senses of humor become more demanding and refined, but that basic, hard-wired reflex remains.  We need it because life is scary.  Nature is heartless, people can be cruel, and death and suffering are inevitable and arbitrary.  We learn to tame our terror by laughing at the absurdity of it all."

I have never seen this principle better displayed than in a video that went viral last week.  It's so great.  Watch this. 

Q.

Gene Weingarten :

Thank you to Caroline Bean for pointing out this wonderful inaptonym from a New York Times business article:  

“'It’s too early to tell, and we’re not going to pretend to predict the outcome,' Mr. Prophet said.

And also on the aptonym front, we must cite the name of the man arrested on charges of drug possession: "Kevin Lee Cokayne"  

And from Matt Price, this incredible aptonym.  This doctor offers treatment to men for "frequent urination."

Q.

Gene Weingarten :

Here is today's Clip of the Day, featuring the world's most guilty dog.   

Lastly, if you haven't already, please take today's polls, which we will discuss forthwith.  

Okay, let's go. 

 

Q.

Abha Bhattarai :

The chat will start live at noon. Please submit your questions now.

Q.

Longtime Lurker

Is it just me, or is the new Post web site design incredibly clumsy to navigate. It's not just that things are different; they seem to be hidden sometimes. The old design wasn't very elegant but it was useful.
A.
Gene Weingarten :

The Post has decided to brilliantly combine features for the enhancement of your reading pleasure!  The web site is now both newspaper website AND scavenger hunt! 

– March 29, 2011 12:00 PM
Q.

Satire

The reason there is nothing wrong with that piece of satire is that it was done on a satire show that airs late at night on the comedy network. It would be like getting offended by seeing pictures of naked women after doing a search of the word porn on google.
A.
Gene Weingarten :

Well, except it's all over the Web!   But I get your point. 

Um, so you feel, basically, that NOTHING is over the top, with satire?  Even I don't feel that.   

– March 29, 2011 12:02 PM
Q.

Dreams

Gene, knowing your feelings about religion, how do you feel about dreams? Harbingers, omens, a window into our innermost fears and desires? Or just random electrical activity from a machine on "low power" mode?
A.
Gene Weingarten :

Some of the above.    I think a lot about dreams, because I dream a lot and remember them.  (Actually, I remember a lot of them later.   Something triggers the memory.  I'll see Achenbach, and remember, oh, yeah, he was walking a squirrel on a leash...)

 

I have experienced several of the types you mention.  Sometimes, they will be laughably psychologically apt: I'll be piloting a plane and forget how to land -- I used to have those dreams most often during stressful parts of my career, or during health emergencies, when I thought I was not in control of my life as much as I should have been.   

 

Often, my dreams are just discarded garbage of the day, oddly pasted together into a semi-coherent narrative, as thought the brain were trying to rid itself of inconsequential nonsense.   If I went to a 7-Eleven, the dream might happen there.  

 

One dream I have a lot is trying to write something, or to research a story, invariably about something really complicated and boring that I would never be involved with, like agrarian reform in China.    And I am always having trouble with it. 

 

I would say one constant for most of my dreams is incompetence -- I am always trying to get from one place to another, and failing.  Getting lost.  Never getting there.  This is, I think, very common.   I think my dreams are largely neurotic, in this sense. 

 

Omens?  No.  I don't believe that the future can be known, or predicted, and I think forebodings that play out into fact probably have an explanation: They probably represent subliminal, valid worries of which we are consciously unaware, that  can squeeze out into your dreams.  Sometimes they may SEEM like omens. 

 

As a kid I once dreamed that my neighbor's cat would get run over and killed.   She was, the very next day.    I think what was happening there is that I'd notice that cat was unsupervised, and around the road a lot, and I'd worried about it. 

 

One of my favorite columns was about how boring my dreams are.  It benefitted from a wonderful interview with Lars von Trier.  

I'm posting this early so everyone can send in stories of their dreams that proved eerily prescient, you silly doofuses. 

 

 

– March 29, 2011 12:02 PM
Q.

Guilty Cani, NE

Gene: Something bothers me about the dog video. It doesn't seem natural. I think we need an instant poll. Did this dog owner: 1) Genuinely catch his dog in the act? 2) Come home and find that the cat treats were, indeed, eaten, but staged the "discovery of the bag." (This would be a minor transgression for the sake of art). 3) Set his dog up by leaving cat treats out intentionally. (Still funny, but loses a little of its cuteness.) 4) Stage the whole thing knowing his dog reacts that way to any attention; it's just a nervous dog. (Possibly still funny, but for entirely different reasons).
A.
Gene Weingarten :

I'm guessing 2.   

– March 29, 2011 12:03 PM
Q.

Fustercluck

I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that the poll results are doing all sorts of annoying things, like saying "chart" intermittently rather than showing the actual chart, etc. Even the original Mistress of Chats, Ms. Hax, pronounced a recent snafu-laden discussion a "fustercluck," so you are not alone.
A.
Gene Weingarten :

Yes, see below. 

– March 29, 2011 12:03 PM
Q.

Gene Weingarten :

Well, I was GOING to do a trenchant analysis of your answers to the polls, but near as I can tell in the fabulous new redesign rollout the poll tools are crap, and I can't SEE all your answers.   

So I am just going to talk a little bit.    I am glad that so many of you, men and women alike, were willing to declare the dying child video to be funny, and okay.   It gave me real problems.   In the end, I decided it was funny and okay, but I had wished the kid had looked less like a child cancer patient.    Everything else was laughing at a concept.   That was laughing at an image.  It got me very uncomfortable.   

But maybe that's just me.   It was a hoot.   

The poem was by Frost.   I'm not a great fan of Frost, but I consider that his best.  A masterpiece of alienation.     I also really like the rhyme scheme; you might not even notice it, but it delivers a familiarity to each stanza.    It's called terza rima:  aba, bcb, cdc, etc.  

On the political cartoons:  Okay, listen up.   There is only one really great cartoon in there: A masterpiece of simplicity.   You probably think you know which it is.  You are probably wrong. 

It is "I'm With Stupid."   Nothing better summarizes a complex, interesting situation.   It delivers the whole thing by perfectly abusing a cliche. 

The second best is the snakes crawling from under the bedrock.   

All the others are straining to one degree or another.  The worst --though well drawn -- is probably the couple talking about the unspeakable, for the simple reason that it doesn't advance the narrative at all.  It's not really an opinion.  It's just dully saying what happened.  

Q.

Oh no, you hit my bumper!

I thought you more than anyone would commisserate with me. I ended up lightly rear-ending someone yesterday. The two screws from my front license plate caused two indentations in his bumper. HE FILED A CLAIM. In what world are two indentations in a plastic bumper worth a claim to an insurance company? It wasn't a new car, it wasn't a great car ... it was a standard soccer mom minivan being driven home from work. Within an HOUR I got a phone call from Geico about it. Am I out of line to think that two small indentations in a bumper aren't worth fussing with?
A.
Gene Weingarten :

I hate people like that.   Perhaps hate is too strong a word, but ... no, I hate people like that.  

Some months ago, I hit a bicyclist.  It was my fault.  I knocked her down.   I was horrified.   She got up, dusted herself off, noted her bike was a little bent and her helmet cracked.   Would I be willing to pay for fixes?  I wrote her a check. 

I LOVE people like that.   If she's reading, please write in your name and I will print it.  I love you.   

– March 29, 2011 12:07 PM
Q.

Killing me with kindness

I thought the niceness poll was hilarious because one of the "nicest" people by those standards I have ever met is my mother in law. She will write a thank you note for a day visit in which she took us out to eat, twice. During said (planned) visit, she will insist she is happy to sit on the couch and watch tv and stay out of your way if you need to get anything done (even though you'd been planning for this visit for weeks). She will vigorously compliment the tea that you made by... microwaving water and putting tea bags in it. She definitely drives with both hands on the wheel and would be horrified by the Onion video. I think she is sweet and lovely and she also drives me insane. Why do you think it is that that sort of niceness has that power?
A.
Gene Weingarten :

Because these people are so much better than you and I.  We are in awe, but with a tinge of annoyance. 

– March 29, 2011 12:08 PM
Q.

Marijua, NA

A.
Gene Weingarten :

It is.   It is also just annoying.   I want to say this now: Those "zero tolerance" laws in schools, wherein kids can get busted and suspended for having Afrin or aspirin?  Someone needs to take a taser to any school administrator who supports this.  

I'm glad my kids are out of school.   Had either of them been suspended for something like this, I would have gone bananas in a way that might have been career-ending.   

– March 29, 2011 12:09 PM
Q.

Humor

I don't know in what order the intro/polls were posted, but I feel after the link to the baby laughing video, and reminding us that: "At its heart, laughter is a tool to triumph over fear. As we grow older our senses of humor become more demanding and refined, but that basic, hard-wired reflex remains. We need it because life is scary. Nature is heartless, people can be cruel, and death and suffering are inevitable and arbitrary. We learn to tame our terror by laughing at the absurdity of it all." it's hard to say there's anything wrong with laughing at the cancer patient video.
A.
Gene Weingarten :

Good point. 

– March 29, 2011 12:09 PM
Q.

Speaking of scavenger hunt...

So based on your last chat in which you said the WaPo hunt would take place the first weekend of June, I just booked a plane ticket so I can finally attend. I am now convinced I got the date wrong and/or that you guys will change the date. Please, please tell me I'm wrong and that I was OK to book those plane tickets. My backup excuse for buying the ticket, in case I was wrong, is that now I get to see the Newseum. So you know, I don't feel like a complete idiot.
A.
Gene Weingarten :

The Hunt is June 5. 

– March 29, 2011 12:11 PM
Q.

Drea, MS

A few days ago I had a dream and you were in it! My younger sister and I were kidnapped and used as prostitutes. The place was also a restaurant, so we were also waitresses. We couldn't escape because they'd chase us down and beat us. Still, I would tell customers of the restaurant about our situation, and they'd just laugh, thinking it was all too crazy to believe. When I had just about given up, you walk in for lunch. I tell you, and you believe me! In my dream I knew you would. And that's when I wake up. Just thought you should know.
A.
Gene Weingarten :

Do you remember what I ordered for lunch?  If it had cilantro, I probably never reported your complaint to authorities. 

– March 29, 2011 12:11 PM
Q.

Conversations is too fancy, bring back the Chats!

Gene, please use your considerable influence to persuade the powers that be behind the new format to list ALL chats on the main page, not just one or two per day. It is so annoying to have to click through menus and scroll down the page just to see what is happening that day. Ugh. I'm trying to be an adult about this format change, I'm not throwing as big a temper tantrum as I want to, but this lack of love for the WaPo chats is just appalling. See what you can do Big Man!
A.
Gene Weingarten :

I am posting this.  I am not sure who is listening.  

– March 29, 2011 12:11 PM
Q.

I am always trying to get from one place to another, and failing.

It is very common (although those who don't have such dreams look at you like you're nuts when you describe it, sort of like having prosopagnosia (sp.?)), and I don't think it has to do with incompetence. Do you, like me, have these dreams mostly just before you wake up? My theory is that your subconscious knows that you have hit the snooze button and have drifted back into REM, all the while knowing that you have to be somewhere important, like getting your first cup of coffee, and it illustrates this by making you (in your dream) frantic.
A.
Gene Weingarten :

No, I don't have a snooze button.   I don't even use an alarm clock.  I am so neurotic that I always wake up when I have to, or a lot before.   I am my own alarm clock.  

– March 29, 2011 12:13 PM
Q.

I'm With Stupid...

...would be better if it worked either as a satire of people complaining about the SC decision, or if it wasn't simply wrong. As it is, it's muddled and seems to want to have it both ways (for my money, Tombstone was easily the best, and we agree that Unspeakable was the worst, though I think it's also lazily drawn though that's a consistent problem for that artist).
A.
Gene Weingarten :

You are majorly wrong about this. 

The point was that the Supreme Court was "with" the jerks, and not happy about it.    Very simple. 

– March 29, 2011 12:14 PM
Q.

marital problems

Hi Gene, I am having a domestic issue which I think only you can offer advice on. My husband keeps using my toothbrush. Or, I keep using his. At any rate, we have two toothbrushes in the bathroom and generally only one is getting used. Question 1: besides being generally gross to think about, is this a major hygiene concern? After all, we share a bed, kiss, etc. Question 2: what is the best way to combat this problem? I think it is an issue right now in particular because one toothbrush is green and one is blue, same brand/model. We have agreed on whose color is whose and then promptly forgotten what we agreed on. For the record, we are both healthy and we are both prone to absentmindedness, compounded by a seven-month-old daughter who is a delight but is often awake at times when normal people enjoy sleeping. Do other people have this problem?
A.
Gene Weingarten :

The Rib and I never have this problem because her toothbrush resembles a toothbrush and mine resembles a NASA rocket ship, if NASA launched giant toothbrushes.   I have one of those whining electric sonar-type things.   

The other day she actually asked me if I had used hers -- hers was apparently wet when she went to use it.   I assured her that this was a mistake that could never happen, given the disparity in our toothbrushing experience.    This woman KNOWS my absentmindedness, but even she had to reluctantly agree. 

Having said all that, if you share a bed, who cares? 

This does actually raise  a far less wholesome and far more disgusting point, way more appropriate to Chatological Humor.    It is the urban legend involving tourists who are burgled, and the burglars take everything except, for some reason, the camera.   

You likely know the rest of this disgusting (and often racist) tale, which is definitely an urban legend.   When the film in the camera was developed, it was found to contain photos of the family's toothbrushes inserted into into the robbers' rumps.    

It has often occurred to me, though, that phony urban legends can give real people real ideas.   Here is one easy to put in play. 

So I did some research -- actually Snopes did some research for me -- and it turns out that at least one variant of this legend DID occur in 2004.     Agh. 

– March 29, 2011 12:15 PM
Q.

Indentations

The mini-van driver is silly to file a claim because in all likelihood their insurance will go up as a result. Kudos to people who can work things out amonst themselves, though you're lucky to have found such an obliging cyclist.
A.
Gene Weingarten :

My cyclist was not obliging.  She was a human saint.  Just a tough person.  

A cop came by and we stopped him, and I was so mortified that I just burbled out IT WAS MY FAULT.  My wife, the lawyer, probably would have glowered at me. 

I had a bottle of wine in the back seat (unopened.)   The cop asked me if I'd had anything to drink.   I said NO AND PLEASE FEEL FREE TO GIVE ME A SOBRIETY TEST. 

I really totally geeked out.  It was an awful moment.  Hearing the crunch of bike and body against car.   I was only going about five miles an hour.   It was a head-on, glancing thing.   I was doing an illegal u-turn.  

– March 29, 2011 12:18 PM
Q.

April Fools

Two-part question: What do you think is the best April Fools Day prank/joke you've heard of, and What do you think is the best April Fools Day prank/joke you've pulled? For me, it's a tie between the Taco Liberty Bell and the Left-Handed Whopper. Oh, and last year I got my association's president to agree to let me post a blog entry on April Fools Day saying that anyone who got a tattoo of our org's logo would get free admittance to our conference. Sadly, Mr. Winkelman is not a member.
A.
Gene Weingarten :

I have linked to this a few times, so please forgive me.  But I love this column.    Sparky, can you link to my April Fool's column of many years ago?  Search for "Flora Pilos."  (anagram for April fools.)

– March 29, 2011 12:19 PM
Q.

Bumps

In Noo Yawk, I backed up in a gas station and bumped my new car into a several-year-old car. An old Jewish guy (takes one to know one) came out and wanted to exchange information. I looked at his bumper and said "you're not going to get that fixed. How about you just take your wife out to a nice meal instead?" and I handed him a fifty. His wife came out of the car and said "what happened?" and he said "shut up and get back in the car."
A.
Gene Weingarten :

Hahahahaha.   

Fifty bucks isn't a "nice meal" though, you stereotypically cheap Jewish person, you.  

See, I can say that.    

– March 29, 2011 12:21 PM
Q.

Abha Bhattarai :

Flora Pilos, from April 1, 2001

Q.

Crying Dreams

Have you ever had dreams where you wake up crying? I have a couple of times. Once when I dreamed my nephew's face was covered in hideous boils and then a second time when I dreamed my husband bought me a hideous piece of jewelry. The first time, my husband was sympathetic to my real tears. The second time he didn't even wake up.
A.
Gene Weingarten :

Never woke up crying.   I have woken up in terror, gasping for breath. 

I've probably mentioned this, but I have a trick I do when I am dreaming something awful and not sure if it is a dream.  I will myself to snap open my eyes.    If I see my ceiling fan, I get all happy. 

 

– March 29, 2011 12:22 PM
Q.

Dreams

Two of my most frequent dreams: First, when I was between 12 and 15 (approximately): I am walking through a forest in the dark of the night. Then I am chased by a tall man, wearing a black suit and a top hat, who is riding a large penny-farthing bicycle. He never catches me, but is always right behind me. Strangely enough, I never met Abe Lincoln, and don't know if he owned a penny-farthing. Second, during and well after my college years: I am in a school hallway and have no idea what my class schedule is or what rooms they are in.
A.
Gene Weingarten :

That second one is the single most common dream.   Everyone has it. 

– March 29, 2011 12:23 PM
Q.

Memory

On Sunday I was talking to a friend of mine, we are both 59 and laughing about how hard it is sometimes to have conversations because we can't remember words, etc. That made me think of your column and I asked her if she had read Gene. She said, yes, but I don't remember what it was about.
A.
Gene Weingarten :

  In the middle of last week, I emailed a colleague at the Post to be reminded of which of my columns would run that Sunday; I had no recollection.    Er, the one about memory loss, she said.   

To those of you who read the column and asked whether that conversation between me and Tom the Butcher was exaggerated:  Not in the least.   It was verbatim.   

A reader reminded me of this excellent Tom Rush song.  It's all good, but the end is inspired. 

– March 29, 2011 12:24 PM
Q.

under Unders

Gene, thanks for taking my question last chat, on how often the genders change underpants. My husband was vindicated....but that didn't leave me nearly as chagrined as I felt a day later, when, while driving down the road, I realized that I'll probably be skeeved out for the rest of my days, thinking, "oh, every man I see probably has dirty underpants on." Here's a follow-on question: If everyone can agree that underpants must always be changed after a shower, what's the gender distinction on how often showers take place? ... I'm really a glutton for punishment.
A.
Gene Weingarten :

I think we all agree that showering once a day is ideal, unless one works in a filth factory.    

But you raise an interesting epistemological question: What is truly "clean"?   I mean, our undies start getting "dirty" the moment we put them on.   There is madness in thinking too closely about this question.  I choose not to. 

– March 29, 2011 12:24 PM
Q.

Wrong wiper wife

My wife is the wrong wiper... she said she could understand any apprehension about a survey for the subject, despite it's ground-breaking subject matter. She proposed a different man vs. woman survey: when you wash your hair in the shower, which direction do you stand when washing the shampoo out. She's convinced all women stand with their back to the showerhead and I say she's nuts, it makes much more sens to stand looking at the showerhead so you don't have to bend like a gymnast. Thoughts?
A.
Gene Weingarten :

You are wrong.  We have dealt with this subject before.  All men face the showerhead, all women face away.   This appears to be irrespective of hair length. 

– March 29, 2011 12:25 PM
Q.

Is this neurotic?

I'm male, in my late 30's. Tall, but not particularly threatening looking. I live in an urban but not especially dangerous section of Philadelphia. If I find myself walking down the street behind a woman who is by herself for more than half a block, I often worry that she will think I'm following her. I will deliberately slow down, walk faster, or choose a different route just to make sure she knows I'm not following her with the intention of mugging her or worse. Is this considerate, or just neurotic?
A.
Gene Weingarten :

It is extremely considerate, as every woman reading this would tell you.  

– March 29, 2011 12:27 PM
Q.

I would have gone bananas in a way that might have been career-ending.

Like Gilbert Gottfried bananas and making fun of the Japanese? A Mel Gibson anti-Semitic/sugar t*ts rant? A Britney Spears shave-your-head moment? Or would you just go Gaddaffi/Sheen bananas?
A.
Gene Weingarten :

I am not racist so wouldn't blurt racist things.  But I would behave in a way that reasonable people might consider unreasable.   I would call people names loudly, and in public.   I would do things that would merit that annoying term "inappropriate," which is what one's bosses use to fire or reprimand you.  

I do believe an organization has the right to fire someone who behaves in a way that embarrassed the organization, even if it's unrelated to work.   

– March 29, 2011 12:30 PM
Q.

Sorry, but I need to a, SK

We probably don't need more on this subject, but please post this.....Where else can I ask this without embarrassment? I am a 30-year-old man and I have always wiped from BACK TO FRONT. Am I gross? Doing damage to myself? I never remember being "taught" or told about this subject. A few times after hearing about wiping the other way, I have tried, and I can't seem to get myself as clean....
A.
Gene Weingarten :

Relax, dude. 

The back to front proscription involves ladies only; one does not want back matter coming anywhere near front orifices.    You, however, have a natural barrier in place.   A firewall, as it were.  You are fine. 

– March 29, 2011 12:30 PM
Q.

It's just you, Ge, NE

The video IS hilarious. I am uber-sensitive about everything, cry at a stray dog, can't even read news stories where kids are hurt, etc. I also tend to be especially attuned to the kind of humor that relies on mocking people (example: I haven't yet decided if "An Idiot Abroad" is painfully funny or just painful). But criticizing this one because the girl looked like a cancer patient? Sorry, you're just wrong. That flies only if the joke is on her. Which it's not. You're not laughing because some SNL sketch artist has made herself up to look like a cancer patient; you're laughing because this stereotype of the uber-frail-and-therefore-pure has just flipped the double bird and gotten carried out of the stadium. Honestly, I found that scene life-affirming in a way that those treacly stories can never quite manage; really, wouldn't we all like to be the kid who has that much gumption under those circumstances?
A.
Gene Weingarten :

Hm.  Okay, hypothetically, let's say this video had been about not cancer but cerebral palsy.  And the child were moving spastically, in a way that seemed, you know, funny.... you fine with that? 

The distinction is between laughing at a concept and laughing at a sight gag.     

As I said, I'm not sure I'm right.   And ultimately I say good video.   Go with it.   

– March 29, 2011 12:33 PM
Q.

Scott Adams

So did you see the thing that's getting Scott Adams (of Dilbert) in hot water? He's tried to furiously backtrack it (doing the whole, "OF COURSE it's a joke" routine), but it's clear he's guilty of one of two things: 1) Being a horrible misogynist 2) Being incredibly unfunny. For being someone that's supposed to be funny, I'm not sure which one is worse.

A.
Gene Weingarten :

I've seen it and will discuss it in next week's update.   Too complex to get into here, in mid-chat. 

I mostly think Scott did nothing wrong, but it's really nuanced.   His own explanation of why it seemed so bad, but wasn't, was right on target. 

– March 29, 2011 12:35 PM
Q.

to discuss, or not to discuss

Hi Gene. My boyfriend is in his late 40s, I am in my mid-30s. On a recent vacation, I was putting something back in his toiletry kit and saw a pill bottle with an ED drug on the label. I was not snooping, I was really just straightening up. In the six months we've been together he hasn't told me, and I haven't had reason to believe, he was taking or using the drug. So now... what do I do? I didn't say anything, and am inclined to just let it be. Part of me is saddened that he doesn't trust me to discuss, but, as I said, it hasn't affected our relationship at this point, and I figure it's a pretty harmless omission. I am happy with him and our relationship, and my gut reaction is that this doesn't matter. Confront? Pretend I never saw? Try to get at it through some other conversation?
A.
Gene Weingarten :

Hax is probably your better bet here, but I like the question. 

Some guys use these things as backup, because they are nervous.   Or he may need em.   In either case, he's embarrassed.   I think if you do talk to him about it, you want to do it in the context of that you don't care.   

You probably know this, but in case it is weighing on you: ED drugs don't give you an erection if you are not turned on by the lady.   There is no reason for you to think that he needs help being excited by you.   If he did, all the Viagra in the world wouldn't help.   

– March 29, 2011 12:35 PM
Q.

Hell in a hand cart

So let's see, the WP has decided to put out front as its leading celebrities a pedantic geezer who still rhapsodizes to whoever will listen his shadowy, street-cred affirming months-long heroin dalliance, and a churlish, life advice guru whose main talent seems to be having a lot of shoes and telling the truly soul-crushed martyrs to "get a good therapist", while spinning off four meandering paragraphs about how to get a SIL off a wedding invite without disrupting family unity. Dear God, you both suck really hard; you just aren't funny anymore, and she's a bore. Could you ask Brancho to find a young you and a wizened Hax, and bill them as the future of WP? And Citizen Ruth really was bad.
A.
Gene Weingarten :

I was totally with you until you dissed Citizen Ruth. 

– March 29, 2011 12:35 PM
Q.

April Fools

I'm rather partial to the April 1 when NPR claimed that Zip Codes were going to be made portable (i.e., you could take them with you each time you moved).
A.
Gene Weingarten :

I missed that.   I like it! 

– March 29, 2011 12:36 PM
Q.

Tom Rush Song

The song Tom Rush does is excellent, but it was written by Steven Walters, about whom I know absolutely nothing except that he wrote one excellent song.
A.
Gene Weingarten :

Noted. 

– March 29, 2011 12:38 PM
Q.

New Chat Font

Gene, I can and will get over the new chat format. The new chat font, however, is unforgivable. It is the same strange font as is the body of all washingtonpost.com news stories now. It is terrible. The reason, simply, is the lack of serifs. It makes the font look cheap, like something a high school lit mag published from a student's basement, rather than the work of the country's greatest newspaper. I know some people suggest that sans-serif fonts are better to read on a screen while serif fonts are better to read on a page. These people are morons.
A.
Gene Weingarten :

Among the ongoing problems with the website, this seems really minor to me.   And I'm not sure I agree with you. 

You know what bothers me: That headlines are more subdued.  Maybe this is a function of my fogeyness; maybe younger readers who are used to tiny link heads aren't bothered by it, but I still want to be told via font size what's important and what isn't.    I remember clicking on the Post homepage on a day all hell broke loose with the Japanese reactor and not really having a clue how bad it was until I was well into the story.  The headline was whispering. 

– March 29, 2011 12:38 PM
Q.

Dating

Gene, I trust your judgment and I need your advice. This is completely unrelated to your polls and not really humorous either. I'm in an interracial relationship that is relatively new. My parents are throwing a fit - I hadn't realized how against this they would be. What's a mature, independent woman supposed to do? I love my parents but wow - you would think I committed a horrible sin.
A.
Gene Weingarten :

I think you know the answer. 

You cannot be cowed by bigotry.   You love your parents, you don't want to hurt them, but you need to be ready to risk a rupture in your relationship.  You need to talk to them lovingly, but firmly, explain your beau's fine points, tell them that if they love you this is the last race-based criticism you expect to hear. 

– March 29, 2011 12:39 PM
Q.

Barney and Clyde help from the chatters

The Charlotte Observer is running a contest to get a new comic to replace Cathy. Help me get Barney and Clyde in!

A.
Gene Weingarten :

I would never propose such a diabolical thing.   Fortunately you did, I did not.    Let's do it!

 

– March 29, 2011 12:40 PM
Q.

Best April Fool's Joke

My father loves to pull jokes. One year when Bush was president, he was booed at an event in Texas. Someone wrote to the local paper that all "True Texans" should support Bush. I wrote back (and it was published) that I was a "True Texan" (grew up there, educated there, went fishing there, etc etc etc) and that I supported free speech and the right to disagree with his policies. A week later (on April 1), my father called my mother to say that I had called from jail having been detained by the secret service for unamerican activities, etc etc etc. My mother (a very liberal Texan who distrusts "the gubmint") fell for it hook, line, and sinker and was crying and shaking. It took thirty minutes to convince her that he was kidding (including a phone call from me - NOT from jail) and she didn't speak to him for a week. He hasn't tried another joke for years...
A.
Gene Weingarten :

Uh.  

Okay, that is a really really bad idea, that "joke."   It rivals the famous painter (anyone recall who?) who told his daughter her lover had died, so he could see her look of instant grief, and sketch it.    

– March 29, 2011 12:42 PM
Q.

Female walker

Just don't keep step with me. (Which can happen absent-mindedly, I know, if you're not in a hurry and can't be bothered to overtake.) When I notice that, I'll slow down slightly, assuming that shortening my 5'4" stride will make it uncomfortable for the average male to match. If you match that (and yes, I've had that happen, and based on subsequent actions, he was planning to rob me), I'll take whatever evasive action I can.
A.
Gene Weingarten :

I never thought of this.    Is the idea that a stalker, to try to disguise the sound of his hoofbeats, would actually time them to yours? 

– March 29, 2011 12:43 PM
Q.

NEED Your Expert Opinion

So how long do you give a new comic strip before you allow yourself to "call it"? I've been reading Reply All since the beginning and am wondering what's the fair amount of time before I drop it if I'm still not interested. Thanks, Gene!
A.
Gene Weingarten :

Well, with Barney & Clyde I asked readers to give it six months, so I'd be a hypocrite if I said any less for Reply All. 

– March 29, 2011 12:43 PM
Q.

DC

Gene, your view on this carries weight with me so I hope you'll answer. I'm extremely intelligent and a diligent worker. Personable and charismatic, I get along with almost anyone. I could excel in any number of fields. I show above-average musical aptitude. I am well-liked by most, have many friends, and am reasonably attractive physically. I have an exceptional sense of humor, being both very funny and quick-witted. I am charming, interesting, and polite. I was raised by loving parents in a stable family environment, provided an excellent education, and put in a financial situation where I was never saddled with debts not of my own making, while still having a solid, working-class ethic. (I acknowledge I am no athlete.) I am largely open-minded, but aware of my few prejudices and always trying to improve myself. My question: Is this arrogance? Or can I be conscious of these things and not be conceited if I also acknowledge that after 40 years, I have wasted all these gifts and made nothing of myself either in personal gain or contributions to humankind? I am not proud of having done so little with so much.

A.
Gene Weingarten :

Okay, this made me laugh.   Let me make another observation, seriously: You are also an extremely good writer, better than many professionals.   So there's something ELSE at which you have aptitude but have failed to excel. 

You know what you are?  You are the opposite of the person afflicted with the Impostor Sydrome.    This describes successful people who are convinced, deep down, that they are unworthy and untalented, and have gotten by largely on luck or the blitheringly stupid blindness of others in seeing their flaws.    

What would be a good name for the opposite of the Impostor Syndrome? 

– March 29, 2011 12:43 PM
Q.

Frost

I was wondering if you'd ever read the poet Russell Edson. You seem to be a big fan of forms so perhaps prose poetry isn't your bag, but I almost think Edson achieves what Frost was going for in this.

A.
Gene Weingarten :

I think this is excellent.    

I might even be willing to call this unrhymed thing a poem, because of its line breaks. 

 

– March 29, 2011 12:43 PM
Q.

Sundays B&C

I just wanted to congratulate you and your boy on Sundays Barney and Clyde. Excellent work! Did Pastis know about it ahead of time? Did he approve? I bet he laughed his butt off!
A.
Gene Weingarten :

Thanks.   We were proud of this one.    Pastis was VERY neverous about it when I first told him what we were going to do.    Then he saw it and asked for the original.  It's in the mail. 

Now we're in a pickle.   We really like this joke format.   Can we steal it again?   If we do, do we credit Pastis again?   At what point does imitation become theft? 

We're consulting with our consciences.   

– March 29, 2011 12:43 PM
Q.

Haiti Mission trip

Gene, since you are very medical-minded, I need help here. My well-meaning but misguided and VERY naive brother is going on a mission trip with his church to Haiti. That isn't the main issue. The main issue is that the pastor of said church, who is leading the 12 flock-members on this trip, has apparently told my brother that "all those shots they tell you to get, you really only need to worry about tetanus". Unclear if this was part of the sermon or an off-the-cuff remark meant to allay fears. It's not allaying fears, brother is now convinced that he really doesn't need to be bothered with all the rest of it now. July trip (IE mosquitos). Brother hasn't moved much beyond his small town bubble (41 yrs old). He became very indignant when I told him his pastor had no clue what he was talking about (quote: "that's your opinion, he has been to Haiti before".) HELP!! (The list of people I'd like to give a swirly to, grows day by day.)
A.
Gene Weingarten :

I just spent four minutes online confirming that the pastor is an idiot.    For one thing, there is a wild cholera epidmic in Haiti right now; there doesn't seem to be a cholera vaccine, but there are elaborate behavioral precautions to take that I'll be the pastor knows zilch about.

According to the CDC he should be vaccinated for Hep A, Hep B and  Typhoid. 

– March 29, 2011 12:44 PM
Q.

ED drugs don't give you an erection if you are not turned on by the lady.

This is surprisingly little known. Possibly from all the Viagra jokes. Viagra doesn't produce erections, it just allows them, as you said.
A.
Gene Weingarten :

I bet if more women knew this, there'd be very little controversy over its use. 

– March 29, 2011 12:45 PM
Q.

Filing of "Needless" Claims

Gene, You know who else looooves people who don't file claims even when someone damages your property? Insurance companies. It's so odd that people spend thousands of dollars a year in insurance, and then when an accident actually occurs which causes damage, people don't report it because they feel bad? I bet insurance companies line their pockets with the billions of dollars in unreported claims because people feel bad about reporting them. Insurance companies are not a charity or a non-profit. It's okay to make them pay for things.
A.
Gene Weingarten :

yeah, then they raise your rates. 

– March 29, 2011 12:46 PM
Q.

Bumping while Parallel Parking

I was honestly shocked at the poll results for the question about bumping other people's cars while parallel parking. A little bump (really, a tap as you're going as slow as possible) is fine! That's why they're called BUMPERS! When you're in a tight parallel parking situation, it can be necessary. I'd love to see the breakdown on this based on where people live -- I live in the city and don't have a parking spot, which means that I parallel park at least once a day, and occasionally several times a day. I've learned to accept bumping as part of city life, and I have a pockmarked bumper to show for it. All that said, one of the most uncomfortable moments of my life was when I was parallel parking with my roommate in the car, misjudged a distance and gave the car behind me an uncommonly hard bump, and only then realized it was my roommate's car. Oops.

A.
Gene Weingarten :

You are evidently new to this chat.  You are preaching to the choir.   

– March 29, 2011 12:48 PM
Q.

Are you really chatting today

Because since the re-design, they've had you on a sort of phantom schedule many times. Not to mention the repeated postings under "updates", when there weren't any. I really hate this redesign (after not minding all the others over the last 10 years), and especially dislike the attitude from the editors, which has been very dismissive. "oh, we're not trying to kill the chats!" Then why remove the full schedule from the front page, and make us click through to a 2nd or 3rd page to find everything? "That's just to make it better for our readers!" Umm, it's not better. And the tiny little box to enter the question also is quite unlikeable. Is there a premium on space, so we can't see more than 4 lines at a time as we type them in? I have an idea, get rid of the first 5 inches of wasted space on the page :( How's that for a "Conversation" ?
A.
Gene Weingarten :

I'll just go ahead and post this here. 

– March 29, 2011 12:48 PM
Q.

links mess

I know that the new site-upgrade is having some gliches but I want to tell you how I had to find the March updates. I typed in "Weingarten" in the WaPo search box, clicked the Live Chat link, clicked transcripts, found the most recent transcript link that worked (January), scrolled to the bottom to the submit to next week's chat link to get to February's chat, scrolled to the bottom to the submit to next week's chat link to get to the March chat - success! But then I'm a dedicated and resourceful fan. I worry not many people are reading your updates. Just thought you should know.
A.
Gene Weingarten :

Sigh. 

– March 29, 2011 12:48 PM
Q.

Is rape ever funny?

I know we've talked about the question before, how some kind of "waiting period" is required before making jokes about a tragedy and how some topics are off-limits for humor. I can't remember if rape has ever been part of those discussions. I've been told (by a male member of my extended family, whom I seldom see) that I have an overdeveloped sense of outrage on the subject and that I should just get over it. Is he right? Is rape ever funny? If you know any good jokes on the subject, please share.
A.
Gene Weingarten :

I think anything is potentially funny, if approached correctly.   There was nothing at all humorous about the Holocaust, for example, but Hitler was an absurd character, and there is actually some catharsis in holding him up to ridicule.    There is also some oblique humor in the fact that you can't be funny about the Holocaust, or rape, or human slavery.    One of the reasons the dying cancer girl was funny -- if you think it was funny -- is the audacity of laughing at something that is taboo to laugh at.    

Having said all that, I'm not sure I've ever heard a "rape joke,"  let alone a funny rape joke.    Some months ago, there was a bit of a kerfuffle over a college paper that published a cartoon purporting to show a new "sexual position."   The position was a multi-step process in which a willing young woman was mounted from the rear, then a secret switch was made with the boyfriend's roommate;  then the boyfriend runs outside and waves to the woman through a window.    This caused great stirrings and charges of "making fun of rape."   I defended it as being 1) pretty funny and 2) so preposterous an idea that it wasn't really connected to plausible rape at all.  It was just silly. 

So, a rape joke:  No, don't see it as potentially funny. 

Okay, there is the redneck rodeo joke.   But that's not rape.   That's just good-ol-boy meanness.   

– March 29, 2011 12:49 PM
Q.

Greater Greater Washington

Gene, I see that your column about the ridiculous speed limit on M Street was picked up by the Greater Greater Washington blog. Have you read this blog before? If so, my question to you: Are the people who post and comment on that blog the biggest ninnies of the moment, or the biggest ninnies EVER?
A.
Gene Weingarten :

I wouldn't call them ninnies.    They are people for whom traffic is a religion.  They have the same humorlessness about traffic that many people have about their faith.   They were able to read this column and then react to it in hundreds of column inches -- passionately and coherently and  intelligently, making fine points about traffic flow, lane width, etc. -- without ever once actually noticing  that the initial article was in the humor oeuvre.    

– March 29, 2011 12:49 PM
Q.

Age diff a biggie?

Hi, Gene. There's a man that's interested in me, and he's ten years older. I'm pushing 40. He's very nice and very funny, and easy to talk to, but after two dates I'm not ready to tear his clothes off (safely). How long should I let an affection cook beforeI pretty much know it's as deep for me as it's gonna get, and I should let the guy go free? Thanks.
A.
Gene Weingarten :

I think you're probably there.   As a guy,  by date three, I'd probably want to know what my chances were.     I wouldn't need or expect the act, but I'd kind of want to know if I was still in the game.   

– March 29, 2011 12:51 PM
Q.

Women's problem with Viagra

One problem I and many women have with Viagra is that it is covered by health insurance while birth control often is not.
A.
Gene Weingarten :

Had a male chatter several weeks ago who made the opposite complaint: Viagra not covered, birth control is.     A single Viagra pill, apparently, costs $20.  

– March 29, 2011 12:54 PM
Q.

Memo to Cliff Lee

Cliff Lee stated he did not join the Yankees because he feels their players were getting too old. So, he accepts FOR LESS MONEY to play for the Phillies. Now, according to ESPN and the Los Angeles Times, the Phillies are the OLDEST TEAM wiith an average age for their starting lineup of 32.4 years---the average oldest age of any team in major league baseball. Plus, the Phillies have an average age for their starting rotation of 31.0 years, again, again, the oldest average age in major league baseball. The only area where the Yankees are the oldest is in relief pitching which, when the Yankees they have Mariano Rivera who is the best reliever in baseball, who cares if he is over 40 years old?
A.
Gene Weingarten :

Speak about preaching to the choir. 

– March 29, 2011 12:54 PM
Q.

Hands where I can see 'em. . .

I absolutely never talk on or answer my cell phone when driving, unless I'm stuck in traffic (I drive a stick-shift, so as soon as the traffic gets fast enough to shift into second I need to hang up). But I simply do not believe that the "hands at ten and two" business is safer than just paying attention and being a competent driver. With power steering, I have easily enough strength in one hand to make the car do whatever it has to do, and it will only take a nanosecond for my other hand to get there if I need it (assuming, of course, I'm not on the phone!). If there are studies that show that two hands are genuinely safer I'd like to see them, but I'd be skeptical.
A.
Gene Weingarten :

I don't believe I ever have two hands on the wheel.   This is one of those things they told you in driving school that simply make no sense at all.   

Remember those little knobs you could buy for a steering wheel, to make one-handed driving even more convenient?  What ever happened to those?  Has The Man outlawed them?

Here's another thing they told you in driving school:  In parallel parking, you may not even touch the curb.  If you do, you fail. 

(This was back in the Pleistocene Era, when I learned to drive, when you actually parked between cars, not between cones. )  I wrote a column about this.  Here it is. 

Please note that I am linking to my column as it appeared in The Boulder Daily Camera.   I cannot find it in the new, improved, Washington Post website. 

– March 29, 2011 12:55 PM
Q.

Lickerish

I think it's amusing that you linked to your licorice column at the tampabay.com website. Are you, too, fed up with trying to locate something -- anything -- on the new WaPo website?
A.
Gene Weingarten :

Yes. 

– March 29, 2011 12:55 PM
Q.

Pickwickian Syndrome

Pickwickian Syndrome (or more properly, Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome) is named after Mr. Pickwick, of Dickens' The Pickwick Papers, in which Mr. Pickwick, a portly older gentleman, undertakes a series of journeys. The syndrome is considered a form of sleep apnea, and the main risk factor is morbid obesity. Someone 40 pounds overweight doesn't even come close to qualifying. (40# may be morbidly obese in small dogs, but it isn't in humans.) Most of the patients I've cared for with PS were well over 100# overweight. Someone who gets short of breath sleeping on her back but not her side probably has some type of obstructive airway disease. A visit to a pulmonologist is in order.
A.
Gene Weingarten :

Yes, thank you.  I so advised her.   

– March 29, 2011 12:55 PM
Q.

for the guilty mugshot file

You may have seen this already, but if not: behold. 

A.
Gene Weingarten :

I have. 

– March 29, 2011 12:55 PM
Q.

Acrostics are great!

But "the world's best word puzzles" are cryptic crosswords.
A.
Gene Weingarten :

I am so glad you brought this up!

This is totally wrong!

Cryptic crosswords are, in fact, the worst, doofiest word  puzzles.    I decided this, reluctantly, after many years.   They are prissy, smug, mannered little mincing puzzles.   They seem to be constructed by 19th century British fops drinking sweet cordials (watermelon liqueuer is their favorite, and peach schnapps) and congratulating each other over their fussy little wordplay.   

Shame on you. 

 

– March 29, 2011 12:56 PM
Q.

Yiddishe Nachas

Gene, you have written extensively about the "shanda for the goyim" phenomenon, including such folks as Medoff, and Abramoff (who you omitted). I would like your take on the opposite--the pride the members of the tribe feel when one of us does something laudatory, such as winning the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize, developing a vaccine for polio, or being nominated as a vice presidential candidate.
A.
Gene Weingarten :

There is not term for this because we are talking about Jews.    We Jews are all about anxiety, guilt, angush, neurosis. 

 

– March 29, 2011 12:56 PM
Q.

Personal Grooming

How come Emily Yoffe can make a video about trimming habits and you can't do a survey?
A.
Gene Weingarten :

Because she was not asking all readers to disclose their trimming habits.   And because she is a woman.   And because we are pretty prudish here.   Frankly. 

– March 29, 2011 12:57 PM
Q.

Post website

What on earth has happened to the Post's website? I can't find a link to the Sunday magazine and there has regularly been misinformation about when your online chats will occur. Never could find the National Anthem chat. Did that ever occur?
A.
Gene Weingarten :

Sparky, can you link to the anthem chat?  

I don't want to talk about the online redesign.  I am paid by the Post and must be loyal and upbeat, and am expected not to notice or comment if they happen to  SCREW UP HUGELY. 

– March 29, 2011 12:57 PM
Q.

Driving with 2 hands

I never could understand why they tell people to drive with their hands at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel. I am very comfortable driving (a stick by the way), and hardly ever drive with 2 hands, however I have a friend who is not comfortable when driving and is very uptight. Agony to drive with her, and since I know she has heard that you are suppose to have your hands at 10 and 2 so that is what she does. I think she would be a much better driver if she relaxed but that is hard to do with the 10 and 2 thing. It is certainly harder to steer with your hands that way, in my opinion anyway. Why is that method taught anyway?
A.
Gene Weingarten :

Exactly. 

I think driving well is a little like golf: If you are too tense, it will never work.  

My mother was the world's worst driver.   She did it very seldom, and always in complete terror.   When she got home her back was soaked.   

– March 29, 2011 12:57 PM
Q.

Wiping

I was a stand-up wiper until 1992 when I went to sleepaway camp and discovered, to my horror, in a bathroom with antiquated bathroom architecture -- five toilets in a row, no partitions or doors -- that stand-up wiping is not preferred by most Americans. The camp has since built new bathrooms with privacy in mind, but what if I never had that experience? I might now be a 30-year-old stand-up wiper. I also peed in a sink because I did not know it wasn't a urinal -- it was my first day and I hadn't made it into the next room to discover there were actual urinals. It was one of those circular communal sinks with the foot-activated bar; you may have seen these in elementary schools back in the day. Thank you for a venue to anonymously confess these (now) hilarious faux pas!
A.
Gene Weingarten :

Okay as we leave here today, I think I'd like to open this venue right here to confessing wildly embarrassing moments.   I will print some in the next chat update. 

I once walked into a men's room and got to within the release of a sphicter muscle of peeing in the sink.  And I didn't have your excuse.   It was an ordinary sink.  I was simply lost in thought.    And there was someone else in the bathroom.   There was nothing to do but zip up and laugh. 

More?  

We're done for today.   Please send your update questions to the button below., the one Abha will create.  

– March 29, 2011 12:59 PM
Q.

Gene Weingarten :

Good afternoon, update readers.

Every journalist dreads this moment; the luckiest and most careful of us never have to be here.   But sadly, today I must issue a heartfelt retraction.      I have committed a sin of humor.

 

In the last chat,  someone asked whether  I  could imagine a funny joke about rape.    My response was complex, but in essence the answer was "no."   This was perhaps a nice answers, a politically correct answer, but it was also wrong.    I not only CAN imagine a funny joke about rape, but I have TOLD it, deconstructed it, and argued at great length, publicly, with Dave Barry, about the proper wording of  the punchline.   Several readers reminded me of this.

 

Tellingly,  it is a MALE-victim rape joke.   It could easily be converted into a female-victim rape joke, but I have never heard it so told, and for good reason.  It would suddenly become un-tellable.    The questions abound!

 

Is female rape somehow more awful than male rape? No, but for the purposes of humor, it clearly is! Is this joke not as funny as I have in the past contended? I considered this and rejected it.   It is funny.   We are left only with a conundrum, to be addressed at a different time, and with a joke that must be re-told.

 

Two missionaries are captured by a savage tribe, and brought before the chief, who gives the men an option:

 

"You may choose sudden, instant, immediate death, or roo-roo."

 

Unfamiliar with the alternative, but all too familiar with the meaning of the first choice, the first missionary chooses roo-roo.    He is tied to a tree and serially raped for the next 12 hours by every male member of the tribe, until he dies from shock and trauma. 

 

The seconed missionary, who has witnessed all this, is then given the same choice. 

 

"Death!" he blurts.  "Sudden!  Instant!  Immediate!"   

 

"Very well," the chief declares.   "But first, a little roo-roo."  

 

(Let the record show that Dave Barry incorrectly believes the punch line should not include the words "a little." )

Q.

Gene Weingarten :

Here we have yet another retraction from the last chat.  You will all remember we watched the tale of Denver, the world's guiltiest dog.

 

I laughed, you laughed, the world laughed.   But it turns out there was one person, at least, who was not laughing.  Her name is Colleen Pelar, and she is a professional dog trainer / behaviorist.   She wrote in: 

 

"This video turns my stomach. 

 

"First off, the concept of canine guilt is very misunderstood. People often tell me that they know their dog has done something wrong because the dog meets them at the door with a guilty look. It’s really a negative association with the owner (even an owner the dog loves). 

 

"For example, we had a client whose dog would regularly pull pillows off the couch and always looked guilty 'because she knew it was wrong.' So with the dog out in the yard, I threw the couch pillows on the floor. When the dog came in and saw the pillows, she showed lots of appeasement gestures toward her owners. Why? She shouldn’t feel guilty about that. She didn’t do it. But she’d learned that a messed up mat equals angry owners.

 

"Dogs make safe/unsafe decisions. They're not operating on a moral right/wrong construct. 

 

Is it safe to eat the bag of cat treats when no one is around? Yes.

 

Is it safe to eat them when someone is around? No, because the people will scold her.

 

Is it safe to be in the room with a chewed bag of dog treats (regardless of which dog ate them)? No, not for Denver, but yes for Macy (who is less submissive and less bothered by the “Did you do this?” interrogation).

 

"In terms of the signals Denver showed, in the studio, she had hugely dilated pupils, a closed mouth, and kept looking away. (Actually I wondered if both dogs were on valium. They did not show a normal amount of curiosity or activity in such an unusual setting. If they were service dogs, their behavior would not have been so surprising, but . . . well, anyway it made me wonder.)

 

"During the videotaped portion, Denver showed a huge submissive grin, avoidance, appeasement gestures, squinting, a modified fear crouch, and lip licking as the camera zoomed in. Although the man wasn’t shouting, he was still freaking her out. She was doing everything short of peeing on the floor to say, “Please stop, please, please stop.” 

 

"Think of her as the equivalent of a person on the floor with arms raised above his or her head to try to stop someone who is shouting. Ugh.

 

"And then the whole discussion was that “she knows” and “all she wants to do is please us.” And this is your response? You love her so much you make her feel like crap? Followed by other clips of dogs being scolded and frightened in the same manner. So, so sad. It’s amazing how little people really know about dog body language.

 

So I asked Colleen if it was possible that Macy, and not Denver, was the guilty party.   She said:

 

"Yes.  I think there's a fair chance that Macy ate the treats. There's really no way to tell. This happens all the time with older dogs and puppies. The puppy will do something that the older dog has been corrected for, and the old dog will act 'guilty.' Macy lets it all roll off her back. Denver feels things intensely."

--

 Agh.  We are all monsters.

Q.

Gene Weingarten :

Also, I promised to examine the Dilbert issue in the updates; we'll wait until next week for that, and get on with some more pressing questions here: 

Q.

Rape jokes

I do recall an episode of the "Benny Hill Show" when Benny, in drag of course, ran around yelling "Grape! Grape!". A police officer stops her (him?) and says, "Don't you mean 'rape'"? Benny replied, "Well, there was a bunch of them."

A.
Gene Weingarten :

Boy, that's sort of barely humor.   It's not tasteless, it's just dumb.  

 

However, it did remind me of this excellent skit by The Whitest Kids U Know.  

 

Now, this is another rape joke, but it survives because it is a joke about how you can't tell a rape joke.  

– April 05, 2011 9:45 AM
Q.

One of the best aptonyms...

A.
Gene Weingarten :

Okay, your link is wrong, but I researched it, and yes, this is rather amazing.  The government expert about urine testing in the Barry Bonds trial is "Barry Sample."

 

When I was editor of Sunday Style, I once made an assignment entirely based on the writer's name.  The story was to be about a man whose job was to watch people take urine tests, to make sure they didn't cheat.   The writer's name was "Eric Wee."

– April 05, 2011 9:44 AM
Q.

Hands at 10 and 2? How old ARE you?

In the age of air bags, the official drivers ed line is that 10 and 2 is wrong, and that hands should be at 8 and 4. Furthermore, turns should use the "push-pull" method that truck drivers use so that at no point is your hand on top of the wheel. This is all to avoid you punching yourself in the face when the airbag goes off. Seriously.

A.
Gene Weingarten :

Wow! 

– April 05, 2011 9:44 AM
Q.

10 and 2 driving

I'm an American living in the UK who just went through months of preparation and anxiety (I'm a worrier by nature) to pass my UK driving test. Part of the worry for me was that I managed to have never taken an on-the-rad driving test in the US. I passed driver's ed. in high school and my scores were good enough that all I had to do to get my first license was pass the written test in my home state. In subsequent moves, I simply traded in one state license for the next. Next thing I know, I'm 47, living in a foreign country and now have to take a road test. And I have to unlearn 30+ years of "bad" driving habits. Cross-hand turning was one of them. If you cross over your hands or drive with only one hand, you will fail the UK driving test. Only 43% of test-takers pass the test the first try. And it's 60 pounds (roughly 100 dollars) per go. My nephew took it three times before he passed. I spent my money on driving lessons and they were worth it because I did pass the test. But all I really did was learn to drive their idiotic way for the test and then revert back to my "bad" habits. And once you get your UK license, it's valid until you turn 70. My mother-in-law should not be on the roads here, but she is. Overall, I have found driving here to be more fun - there's less space to maneuver (the thing I miss most about America is space...personal space, space to live in, space to drive in) and you have to drive more defensively. But drivers are more polite. Even with the occasional encounter with road rage, you don't have to worry about it being backed up by a loaded gun in the car.

A.
Gene Weingarten :

1. Why didn't you spell it "manoeuver," if you are so British and everything?

 

2.  I remember that edict not to cross one hand over the other on the steering wheel.   It was moronic, like being forced to skip rather than run.  (If you think about that, the principle is the same.)   In short, yes, we all had to learn "the right" way to do things, which we immediately needed to purge ourselves of afterward.   

 

Are you old enough to remember hand signals?  When I was 16, we had to know how to signal left (arm out)   and right (arm up)  and, believe it or not, "stop."  (Arm down).  I still don't know why.  This was 1967; all cars had signals and, um, rear stop lights."

– April 05, 2011 9:46 AM
Q.

Sunday's B & C

Sunday's Barney and Clyde was indeed very funny, but I think Tim and Eric (of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!) with a great assist from Dr. Alan Thicke beat you guys to the same joke.

A.
Gene Weingarten :

Well, no.   But this is funny. 

– April 05, 2011 9:45 AM
Q.

Dreaming of future events

My wife likes to run early in the morning (5am) before going to work. A number of years ago when we had a dog (a yellow lab) and the dog was young, she would usually take the dog with her. She would run 2-3 miles and would always stay on the side streets of our neighborhood. Unlike my wife, while she would get up early and run, I would stay in bed and sleep. Most mornings I would fall back asleep after she left. One morning I awakened with a start thinking "How will I ever get the dog back home?" I was certain that the dog had been injured while out on the run, and had no idea how I would find them and help my wife get the dog home. I got up, but found that my wife was still out on her run with the dog. Realizing that my concern was "just a dream", I dutifully went back to bed. About 10 minutes later my wife got back, came in and said "You're not going to believe what happened this morning!" Turns out as they were turning a corner in the neighborhood a mire or more away the dog went a bit wide on the corner and out into the street. There was a car coming ... and the dog ran into the side of the car! The driver stopped immediately thinking, got out and said "Is your dog OK?!", to which my wife responded "The dog is fine. Is your car OK?!" My wife ran with our dog probably 5 days a week for 10 or more years, and this was the only time that i) the dog ran into a car, and ii) I dreamt that the dog was injured on the run. I don't think this is coincidental. The dog was fine (no smarter, but fine), but it made it clear to me as a scientist that there are multiple ways that we can gain knowledge, and not all of them are "traditional". I've had several dreams like this both before and since that were true, and a greater number that were not. Unfortunately having one like this that is so correct makes it very hard to ignore the others.

A.
Gene Weingarten :

I have an explanation for you, but you won't like it.   People often say "I don't believe in coincidence," when they mean exactly the opposite.  If you are a scientist, you know that coincidence is a fact of life.   It happens, about as often as you would expect, which is, you know, every once in a while.    E.O in a W, something just profoundly weird is going to happen.  By coincidence. 

 

My case, which I know I have written about before, involved Woodstock.   I found myself in a driving rain, sharing a makeshift tent with a stranger from California.   We got to smoking, and then talking, and it turned out that he had grown up in the house next door to where my parents lived.  We arrived at this obliquely, as it became clear the city was the same, so that neither of us could have been "playing" the other --  He said the city, I said the neighborhood, he said the street, I said the house number, etc. 

– April 05, 2011 9:46 AM
Q.

Gene Weingarten :

Good afternoon. Today’s update is for the benefit of all of us who feel humor is at its best when it is tediously analyzed; sterilized, lobotomized and dissected like a decerebrate frog; those of us who know in our hearts that humor is best enjoyed when its natural beauty has been vivisected, its viscera laid bare for all to see how elegantly it had worked when it still lived and breathed and gave joy to others before idiots with scalpels had their way with it. In short, we are going to spend the next 4,000 words in the analysis of a 150-word joke. We are going to do this because some of you have forced my hand. The guilty parties know quite well who they are. Whether they feel shame will soon be determined.

 

After last week’s chat update, a number of readers took to their Facebook pages to opine that I was wrong – that the world-famous, often-repeated “roo-roo” joke is NOT in fact that rare example of rape-related humor that is both objectively funny and acceptable to tell. Most of these Facebookers contended that the joke is both unfunny and tasteless. These were not just one or two voices. There were many. I heard them roar, in numbers too big to ignore.    

 

We will stop here for the requisite Instapoll; please take it:  Men |  Women

 

Obviously, you all know my opinion at this point, but that has seldom been an impediment to your robustly expressing your feelings.  Please do not let it be now.  

 

Dave Barry advised me not to do what I am about to do.  He feels the roo-roo joke is first-rate, but that it cannot be defended to those who insist on being offended or unamused by it -- that mine is an unwinnable battle.

 

Well, I disagree. I believe reasonable people who happen to be in error can respectfully be made to understand their mistake and repent of it. I fancy it might even be possible, through rigorous humor pedagogy, to show people why this joke is funny in such a way that it will make them less inclined in the future to prim denunciations of valid humor – in short, that these people can be “pruned,” a new meaning I just coined and of which I am inordinately proud.       

 

The first question to resolve is:  Does being “offensive” render an otherwise funny joke unfunny?  

 

The answer, inarguably, is no. Being “funny” is an objective determination, as we will see below. But being “offensive” is subjective, always a matter of context. Being offensive may well render a funny joke untellable to a wide, or to a specific, audience. But it cannot make it unfunny. Few people would argue that The Aristocrats joke is inoffensive, yet in the context of “The Aristocrats” movie, which examines the joke as social anthropology, it is perfectly fine and actually increases in humor via the frequent, and nuanced, retelling. A funny but deeply racist joke told by a non-racist person to a non-racist friend is accepted without prejudice as a joke about the endurance of stereotype; it is fine. But should it be accidentally overheard at a party by a third person who knows neither of the first two people, it is instantly and genuinely offensive. Context matters. It is all about context.

 

So, with that out of the question, we are left to judge the “roo-roo” joke, at least initially, outside the context of taste and offensiveness. Is it objectively funny?   

 

To answer this question, one must be prepared to analyze why things are funny. There are, essentially, two approaches. They are not mutually exclusive.  

 

The first approach is mechanical. We will call this the Achenbachian approach. The second approach is spiritual, which I will attribute to Dave Barry.

 

Joel Achenbach is a machinist. He basically sees the human body as a feat of engineering, and he thus essentially defines humor by what happens on a cellular level. To Joel, humor is a pleasing biochemical hiccup in our brains  -- a pleasurable physiological reaction, much like an orgasm – that is occasioned by the collision of conflicting frames of reference. We expect that things are to be interpreted according to a certain mindset; but, no, it turns out the intended meaning is entirely different. This recognition of this discordance delivers a little frisson; a laugh. Here is a small and primitive example:  “My dog has no nose.” / “Really?  How does he smell?” / “Terrible!”

 

Here is a much more sophisticated example of conflicting frames of reference: 

 

A man works in a pickle factory. One day he comes home from work and confesses to his wife that he has been fighting a terrible compulsion: "I keep wanting to put my penis in the pickle slicer."   

 

The wife, understandably, is horrified. She tells him he needs to get professional help! But he says, no, he can and must handle this himself. Several weeks go by, and one day the man comes home in the middle of the day, ashen faced, and sinks into a chair with his head in his hands. “Omigod!” says the wife.  “You...You didn’t DO it, did you?”

 

“I did,” he says, miserably.

 

“Well, what happened?” she asks.

 

“I got fired!”

 

“B-but, I mean, what happened with...the pickle slicer?”

 

“She got fired, too!”

 

Colliding frames of reference: We THINK this is about a machine but learn it is about a person. Whoops. “Put my penis in the pickle slicer” suddenly takes on a whole new meaning. Haha. We have a little humor orgasm.     

 

Dave Barry buys this theory – he calls it “judo” -- but goes deeper to include an additional philosophical component: “A sense of humor,” he once wrote, “is a measurement of the extent to which  we realize we are trapped in a world almost totally devoid of reason. Laughter is how we relieve the anxiety we feel about this.”

 

We are talking psychology, philosophy, ontology; in short, a field of humor science I shall call “neurotics.”   

In the case at hand, the setup is vaguely plausible -- people DO have strange compulsions – a man feeling compelled to put his penis in the slicer sounded odd, but, c’mon, people will fetishize ANYTHING.

 

But then we learn the joke is actually about a far more familiar human compulsion involving the eternal anxiety surrounding matrimony, monogamy, and lust.    This joke would not be funny if people were not in a constant neurotic war between their morals and their private parts. 

 

The pickle slicer joke works on both levels. Most good jokes do.

 

So, now let us enter the theater of the roo-roo joke, with an unnamed savage tribe, in an unnamed part of the world, and two unnamed male missionaries. If this joke is objectively funny, why?

 

Does it involved conflicting frames of reference? Most assuredly. We are led to believe this is all about a choice, when, in the end, it is not about a choice at all; it is about LACK of choice. Definitionally, this is humor, though I am prepared to acknowledge that in terms of inversion – colliding frames – the collision is not as loud or as satisfying as the one with the pickle slicer. That is because the greater strength of this joke lies in the non-mechanical, spiritual realm.   What is it REALLY about?   

 

To quote my good friend Horace LaBadie, it’s primarily about “how the court system always screws you.”

 

And yes it is, at least initially. It is about the justice system, and bureaucracy, and how no one can get a break. You know from the setup that these two innocents are about to get screwed; you just  aren’t aware quite how literally. This is a metaphorical screw-job, the centerpiece of this joke.

 

If that were ALL it is, it would still be a good joke. But this is layered. It is also about the fact that people make a pretense of civility, of humanitarianism, of due process, but in the end we are all simpletons and savages and we tend to make decisions based on what we really WANT to do, and what we really WANT to do is so often related to a baser instinct. This is all inherent in the excellent line of the chief, which begins like a judicial pronouncement...“very well then,” and ends with the giggle of a little kid filled with mischief.  (Mis-chief. Haha. Me make joke.)

 

So, all of that is crammed in this little gem of a roo-roo joke. It may not all be instantly apparent, but it is all there. It explodes in our brain, making us laugh. 

(By the way, to those of you on Facebook who agued for a different version of the joke -- where the initial choice is “death or roo-roo” and the final pronouncement is “death BY roo-roo,” you are wrong. The problem with that version is that it is illogical: In fact, the first missionary RECEIVED “death by roo-roo.” A truly good joke must be logical. Similarly, for those who argued for a version set on a remote Pacific island, where roo-roo involves serial sodomy with pineapples, this version is also inferior; true, it is marginally funnier because of the absurdity of the visual joke of pineapples, but it does severe damage to the philosophical underpinning; the tribe would be far less likely to kind of WANT to do the pineapple-rape. And lastly, to those of you who argued for the version you first heard, in which it is not “roo-roo” but “bunga-bunga,” I have nothing to say. If you cannot intuitively understand the hugely greater humor in “roo-roo,” you are lost to this conversation.)

Q.

Gene Weingarten :

Okay, now to the key question. Is this joke too offensive to be told?

 

We must begin with a statement of what this joke is NOT. This joke is deliberately not about two females facing judgment by, say, a streetgang – or even about female missionaries in this fanciful jungle, or about females at all. Nor is it about two male prisoners facing judgment by their fellow prisoners. That is because women get serially raped, and it is horrible. Men in prisons get serially raped, and it is horrible. Guess what? You never read in the Style Invitational a joke about “dropping the soap” in prison, though there were dozens of otherwise funny such  entries submitted by readers over the years. Look at this chat from eight years ago. Search for “soap.”

 

B-b-ut, you sputter in that annoying way of yours, the premise of this joke is the rape of men. To this I respond: No it wasn’t, no more than the premise of the joke ending with “Why the long face?” is that horses are allowed in saloons.

 

There is a point at which a joke announces itself to be silly, to be judged in the context of the joke, and nothing more. It is a declaration of innocence.  You know it when you hear it. You know that when a priest, a minister and a rabbi begin to do anything together, this is not going to be a serious disquisition on the state of interfaith relations. You know that two men are so seldom marooned on a desert island – has that ever even happened at all? – what follows is not to be deconstructed as anthropology. And you know, or should know, that when you have missionaries captured by a tribe, what you SHOULD envision in your head is little cartoon characters in pith helmets, looking most unhappy, being boiled in a kettle as soup.

 

To make her point that the roo-roo joke is offensive, one Facebooker earnestly linked to a Wikipedia article on the horrific ongoing rape of women in Congo as an act of war. Yes, yes. And this joke has as much to do with those rapes as the little men in pith helmets have to do with Jeffrey Dahmer.  

 

I have made no secret of the fact – and I suspect the poll will confirm – that most of the complainants here are women. I don’t believe in proving things by testimonials, so I note this only in passing: For this update, I told the roo-roo joke to four funny women of my acquaintance. Three thought it very funny, and not remotely offensive. The fourth found it only mildly funny, but also not remotely offensive. One of these four was Gina Barreca. I mention her specifically because she is not ordinarily willing to give a break to sexist humor. As we chronicled in our book, Gina found the “three tampon joke” totally unfunny because of perceived sexism, but more to the point, she also completely disliked the joke in our Instapoll about the elephant, the monkey and the mouse.  She found it appalling.

 

Now, Gina happens to be completely wrong about that joke, as are any of you who found it offensive. It is a joke completely (and justifiably) at the expense of men and our absurd sexual pretensions. Gina simply reacted viscerally to that last line, which sounded icky and rape-like. I get it, but she was wrong. The inflated, pompous, needle-penised mouse is entirely the butt (haha) of that joke.

 

The point is, Gina is no pushover, vis a vis humor and taste. She had not before heard the roo-roo joke, but laughed aloud at it. I asked her why, inasmuch as it involves rape. She said, and this is verbatim:

 

1.     It is not rape of a woman, by, say, gang members at an initiation. That would seem uncomfortably real.

 

2.     The language of the chief, which begins with formal judicial discourse and ends with the brilliant incongruity of “But first...” puts the joke in the realm of the comfortably silly.

 

3.     It’s nice that these are missionaries.  They are convinced of the goodness of their mission. They believe they have the right to convert other people and are convinced they are going straight to heaven for this. So there’s a nice comeuppance here.

 

That’s a nice little layer Gina added at the end there.

Q.

Gene Weingarten :

Okay, why have I gone through this tedious exercise? I have done so for the same reason humanitarian reason civilization went through the agony of World War I: So we would never, ever, have to do it again. That didn’t work out so well, I admit, but in this case, we can always hope.

Q.

Gene Weingarten :

One postscript. Yes, rape is ordinarily too offensive to turn into humor, and no, George Carlin does not own the final word on this subject. A man on Facebook, trying to argue my point, linked to this old Carlin routine about how rape can be funny. 

Second warning: It is horrifying. Not funny! I'd argue it was NEVER funny, but I'm doing that in hindsight.

Q.

Gene Weingarten :

Good afternoon, chat update readers.   I have been wrestling now for three hours with the Post's vaunted new chat publishing tool, which is just part and parcel of its vaunted new web re-design.


Which leads me to today's instapoll.

Q.

More offensive "make a wish" jokes

Gene really missed out by addressing only one of the recent "make a wish" parodies of questionable taste out there. For the record, I found the one Gene discussed funny and okay. Having found a good thing, the Onion Sports Network apparently wasn't willing to let it sit at just one iteration, so they did another one along the same theme.

 

Now, this one is of far more questionable taste. This is from an Australian comedy group called The Chaser, who appear to have done a variety of skits and stunts running the gamut from lame to hilarious to tasteless. They ended up apologizing for this one.

A.
Gene Weingarten :

Wow.  

 

This is stunningly bad; to me, the difference is not so much in the edginess of the video but the fact that this one lacks ... humor.     Nearly every decision the producers made was wrong, including the decision to show the attack.   It's almost painful to watch.  Painfully bad humor.      

– April 19, 2011 12:02 PM
Q.

April Fools

I missed the chat- spent an extra day trying to find it on the website, but anyway- The April Fools' Dad made me remember my best one ever, because my Dad made it better. I was at college and called my parents- and got the answering machine. I left two messages, the first saying that I was okay, but that I had broken my arm after falling down the stairs during a late night fire drill in my dorm. That I'd call them later with the details but I was heading out. The second message was haha, just kidding, Happy April Fools Day, Could you send me some spending money? My dad heard the messages first and erased the second one before my mom heard them. I returned to my room to 6 missed calls and one frantic over the top message from my mother. I call them back, she starts peppering me with questions, my dad is on the line but quiet, I finally break into the diatribe with "Didn't you get my second message?" What second message?" "The one where I said Happy April Fools Day?" At that point I got yelled at, but my dad got lambasted. She's never really forgiven me for that one. Still better/worse, I had a coworker who got thrown out of his house for a week after he through a recycling container with some rocks down the basement steps after yelling and then crumpling himself up in an awkward position at the bottom and yelling for help.

A.
Gene Weingarten :

Okay, well.   There is a difference between an April Fool's joke and being an April Fool's a-hole.   You were an a-hole and obviously you got this trait from your father.

A good way to judge whether one is being an a-hole with a prank is to ask yourself whether the prank has any element of humor or cleverness to it, once explained.     How funny does this sound:  "Er, see, I SAID I had a broken arm, but, like, it WASN'T REALLY BROKEN.   Get it?" 

There was once a Halloween episode of Roseanne all about how Dan did this elaborate, terrifying trick involving a death mask and a chainsaw, and scaring the crap out of Roseanne.     As the end credits were rolling, we see Roseanne on the phone with her mom.   And her eyes widen.   She looks to Dan helplessly.    She says "Uh, well, sure, Mom, we always love to see you...."

And Dan gets this frightened look. 

And Roseanne says,  "eighteen days, uh, uh,  "

And Dan starts totally freaking, pacing, tearing at his hair, pantomiming "NO NO..."

And then Roseanne just stops in the middle of a sentence, smiles, and hangs up. 

And Dan just starts bowing and salaam-ing. 

Now THAT was a funny prank. 

– April 19, 2011 12:02 PM
Q.

Gilbert Gottfried

Gene, did I miss your take on Gilbert Gottfried's misdeeds? Please hold forth!

A.
Gene Weingarten :

I think I tweeted it.   I remarked on the irony that Gottfried got fried (see what I did there?) because of tastelessness.   Remember, it was Gottfried's tastelessness that launched "The Aristocrats" and re-launched his career. 

– April 19, 2011 12:03 PM
Q.

Double Spacer?

I don't think I ever noticed before but it seems to me that you are a double spacer after periods. I never would have thought this of you, Gene. I would have thought that someone at the Post would have broken you of this typewriter habit.

A.
Gene Weingarten :

I am.   I have only recently learned there is a debate about this, and very very vocal proselytizers on the issue.   We two-space typers really can't defend it and don't try, which infuriates the other side, for whom this issue seems to be one of moral gravity.  They hear  "I know it's wrong but I do it anyway" and react as though the issue in question was abortion or, say, tapping other car's bumpers.  

In an article in Slate, Farhad Manjoo (whom I think of as Forehead Man, Jew) explains that the now outdated two-space convention occurred with the ascendancy of the manual typewriter: 

 

The problem with typewriters was that they used monospaced type—that is, every character occupied an equal amount of horizontal space. This bucked a long tradition of proportional typesetting, in which skinny characters (like I or 1) were given less space than fat ones (like W or M). Monospaced type gives you text that looks "loose" and uneven; there's a lot of white space between characters and words, so it's more difficult to spot the spaces between sentences immediately. Hence the adoption of the two-space rule—on a typewriter, an extra space after a sentence makes text easier to read. 

--

Monospaces haven't been used since 1970 or so, so there really is no  need for the two-space rule.  I cannot shake myself of it.   It's completely ingrained.  I think it would be easier to kick heroin than to change this habit. 

– April 19, 2011 12:04 PM
Q.

Urin, AL

When I was about 9, I took music lessons downstairs at the local music store. They had a single bathroom for everybody. It was the first time I'd ever seen a urinal. At the time, I thought that it was some off kind of sink. I can't, for the life of me, remember if I actually ever used it as such, but shudder at the thought that I might have.

A.
Gene Weingarten :

See next post. 

– April 19, 2011 12:04 PM
Q.

Wildly Embarrassing

 

About a year ago, I was a marine finishing up a deployment to Afghanistan. I flew from a remote base in Nimruz province to Camp Leatherneck, where, at the time, a few battalions of Georgian soldiers (Stalin Georgia, not Lester Maddox Georgia- large men, large names, large mustaches) were stationed alongside the Marines. My unit was stuck there for a few days while we waited for a flight to Kyrgyzstan. The bathroom trailers on Camp Leatherneck had big trough-style urinals, with a faucet handle on the end that made water run down the back of the trough. I went into one of the bathrooms just as a Georgian soldier was coming out of one of the stalls. The Georgian proceeded to wash his hands in the trough style urinal while I watched, stunned into silence. I was standing right next to the sinks. The Georgian looked up from the trough, looked at me. I looked at the sinks. He looked at the sinks. He looked at the trough. The moment of realization was humiliating, even to witness. There we were, two big military guys from different countries, too embarrassed to look at each other. I would tell that story to other Marines, and they'd laugh. And I'd laugh too, but there's sadness at the heart of it. What sort of circumstances did that guy grow up in?

 

A.
Gene Weingarten :

This is almost a themed chat! 

– April 19, 2011 12:03 PM
Q.

Gene Dreams

You are in my dreams fairly frequently, often after these chats. My favorite one happened just after you gave us a teaser about approaching women on the street to ask if they'd have sex with you. It was towards the end of a very long & involved dream that I won't bore you with ,but I was hanging out of a car window that was making a u-turn and saw you walking Murphy down the road toward me. I recognized you by your moustache & what little hair was sticking out from under a rainbow clown wig. You were dressed in knee high boots, a tight skirt, and a v-neck blouse that was showing off some impressive fake boobs. I stopped to say Hi, and asked you were still working on upcoming article or column. You gave me a blank look and said "No, I finished that last week. Why do you ask?", then turned & walked away. I woke up laughing.

A.
Gene Weingarten :

And you have me laughing, too. 

– April 19, 2011 12:05 PM
Q.

bad joke?

Is telling a guy you are dating that you are with family (clearly on April 1) beyond the pale?
A.
Gene Weingarten :

BEYOND THE PALE.  BEYOND THE PALE. 

My God. 

– April 19, 2011 12:05 PM
Q.

NPR April Foo, LS

Here is a link to the reveal and the text of the April Fools joke on NPR. CLASSIC!

A.
Gene Weingarten :

Superior.  I love the idea of a USPS program called "Going Postal."

And this:  "This is like Kinko's expanding its reproductive services to include gynecology," said Sen. Phil Spigel of Arkansas.

– April 19, 2011 12:05 PM
Q.

Opinion or Fact

Gene, I find it irritating that you consistently proclaim your opinions to be facts. It's your OPINION that a certain cartoon is best, it isn't a fact. I'm sure you will tell me how wrong I am about this and you won't change in the slightest. For some reason I still love you.
A.
Gene Weingarten :

You are completely wrong about this. 

– April 19, 2011 12:06 PM
Q.

a little something for the ladies

Not sure if you have been privy to this slighty dirty educational bonanza

 

There is so far only one chic highlighted, but this seems to be a link you can get down with.

A.
Gene Weingarten :

This seems to be a very gay thing.   I'm glad to see Lewis Powell in there.    I have remarked in the past that the Lincoln assassin may have been the hottest American male ever.   And he was made for a camera; he scowled at it.   

– April 19, 2011 12:06 PM
Q.

Mistake in the acrostic with your quotation

Okay, I did the acrostic because I like acrostics -- not because I mindlessly do everything you tell us to do. But unless you endorse the answer "eyetoofh" (yes, with an 'f'), there is a serious flaw in the acrostic. I say serious because it occurs in one of the simpler answers, thus inserting an impediment early in the process. Most people work back and forth, using context to fill in the quotation, and this error hampered that process.
A.
Gene Weingarten :

You are incorrect. 

 

This reader is referring to the last update, where I ordered people who know how to do acrostics to attempt this one.   The results will surprise and delight readers of this chat.    

It was a fine crostic with no errors.   You misread the line in question; it is an inversion of ordinary syntax, but quite correct. 

– April 19, 2011 12:06 PM
Q.

Washington, DC

This might have been covered before, but if not, perhaps it would make a good poll. I was just reading an article about Spanx, the compression underwear. (It's OK: It was in the New Yorker, so I'm still really too sophisticated to participate in this chat.) In it - the article, not necessarily the underwear - the company founder, Sarah Blakely, noted that women remove undershirts by withdrawing each arm in sequence, then lifting it over the head, while men reach behind their neck and remove the shirt in a single motion. I'm male and generally, but not exclusively, follow the supposedly male motion. Two questions: How accurate is that description? Second, if it's true, any ideas on why there's a difference? Is one-arm-at-a-time more dainty? Do women not want to risk turning their shirts inside out? Is it harder to reach behind your neck when your arm is short, and if so, how do short men and tall women remove their shirts?
A.
Gene Weingarten :

This is an excellent question.  I had not known this fact.  I have three guesses, and then will wait for the ladies to englighten me: 

1.  Upward flibbiting of the breasts by a shirt does not feel good.

2.   It is not elegant.   In a possibly related manner, we concluded some years ago that the reason ladies turn away from gentlemen when they (the ladies)  are removing their brassieres is because it is an awkward and unladylike-looking act.

3.  It is the fault of the Jews. 

– April 19, 2011 12:06 PM
Q.

bumpers and dreams

I think the bumper disconnect is that you are not a car lover. At least not like other people are. I love my car. I spent a lot of money on my car because I loved it that much. I get all of my door dings pulled out. I am not so crazy as to park really far away from the door of the grocery store so no one will park next to me, but it is a risk I take. I understand sometimes while parallel parking you might tap someone's bumper. We've all done it,but it should be avoided at all costs. And if you hit someone hard enough to damage it (at all), then you should expect they are going to want it to be fixed. It's just the way it is. Two tiny indentions is a little extreme, but I can't say I wouldn't do it. I definitely wouldn't file a claim unless the other person wanted to (or refused to pay). Some of us just love our cars. A LOT. On another note, I once had a dream I was having an asthma attack. I don't have asthma, but this was a very vivid dream where I struggled (seemingly for a very long time) for each and every breath I took. I woke up with my face directly planted into my pillow. See, dreams are just your body/mind trying to tell you something.
A.
Gene Weingarten :

If tapping another's bumper should be avoided "at all costs," then you are saying NEVER do it.   

It seems to me your argument is silly:  YOU are a nutcake about your car.    Why should that prevent me from behaving normally in your car's presence?   You're like a germophobe who won't shake anyone's hand and gets angry if someone offers his.   

I should continue to make clear: We are talking about only slight bumper tapping that might be incidental to parallel parking.   We are not talking about inflicting any damage, except of the tiniest ding or paint-flick that might happen on one of those molded bumpers.  

I live in an inner city neighborhood.   There is no car parked on the street with pristine bumpers.   It's IMPOSSIBLE.      Worrying about it is insane.  It's like worrying that the sole of your shoe gets dirty.   

– April 19, 2011 12:06 PM
Q.

filing a claim

I once backed out of a space in a parking lot in which you could only drive one way. The person who thought I hit him was backing up, so coming from the "wrong" direction. When I saw him I stopped and pulled forward to let him keep going. He got out of the car and found a smudge (not even a dent) on his brand new car, and insisted on getting my insurance info. He submitted it, but of course nothing came of it--buffing with a cloth would have taken care of the problem, but it turns out that the smudge was not even consistent with where my car would have impacted first if I had touched him.
A.
Gene Weingarten :

That guy should meet the previous car post guy.  They'd have a lot to talk about, until I hit them over the head with a hammer, to make it stop. 

– April 19, 2011 12:07 PM
Q.

Embarrassing Moment

Never thought I would confess to the entire world, but here goes: the entire 4th grade is assembled (not just my class, but ALL classes of 4th graders). We are hearing a speaker on Lord only knows what. I was sitting cross-legged on the floor, and farted, LOUDLY (unable to hold it in in that position). I probably could have avoided being identified, but my natural response was to blush furiously. This resulted in a room full of 100 10-year-olds in absolute hysterics, pointing and laughing at me. They basically had to end the talk early because there was no getting people under control again after that.

A.
Gene Weingarten :

Okay, we'll end with this confession of humiliation.  It reminded me of one of my favorite columns, the times I offered to write nice things for PR people if they told me humiliating things about themselves.  Here it is. 

– April 19, 2011 12:04 PM
Q.

 

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