Chatological Humor: Monthly with Moron (September)

Sep 24, 2013

Gene Weingarten chatted Tuesday, September 24 at noon for his monthly chat with readers. Results of the pre-chat polls:

Donut poll:
- 34 and younger
- 35 and older

Pooping poll:
- Male
- Female

Color test:
- Male
- Female

NOTE: The monthly chat occurs the last Tuesday of every month. All the rest of the Tuesdays are "chat updates." If you have a question for Gene to answer during this monthly chat, please submit it on this page. He does not take questions during the chat updates.

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.

About this chat:
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. 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.

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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.

His most recent book, "The Fiddler In The Subway," is a collection of his full-length stories. He is working on a new book, called "One Day," about the events of December 28, 1986, a date chosen at random by drawing numbers from a hat.

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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.

Good afternoon.   

I spent a little time yesterday researching past Speakers of the House to see if I could find one as bad as Boehner.  (B-b-b-bad to the B-b-boehner.)  It turns out there are candidates for this honor, including Jim Wright and James Blaine, who were occasionally effective parliamentarians but were also crooks, and Howell Cobb, from the Civil War era, who was actually, literally, a traitor.  I have no evidence Boehner is a crook, and though some might argue that playing political extortion with the U.S. economy is treason, I shan’t.   But it can be argued, and I do, that Boehner is a craven, pathetic weakling without the skill or will to wrest his caucus from the hands of petulant children; that his actions deny the legitimacy of the majority government; that he has accomplished virtually nothing except paralysis, and that he is, in the main, a total fartbag.    

But what can we, as Americans, do about it?    Clearly, it is time for a righteous Higgledy Piggledy!


Higgledy piggledy
House Speaker “Boehner" (It
Reads like a hard-on, but
Spoke, it’s benign.)

Which is appropriate,
Etymologically.
There is no stiffness: He
Hasn’t the spine.  

--

I am going to spend the remainder of this introduction on a manifesto connected to the Donuts poll today.  It may be the most important thing you’ll read all week; hell, it may be the most important thing you’ve ever read.  (The previous sentence is not only defensible but arguably always true.  “May” is a magic word.)  If you haven’t taken the Donuts poll, please do so now. 

The Dunkin Donuts “piece” appeared on Buzzfeed one day two weeks ago, and before I savage it here, I want to say something about the author, whom I do not know at all.  Erin La Rosa appears to be a senior editor at Buzzfeed.  Her Buzzfeed bio reads: "Michael Fassbender once called me, 'The one who got away,' in a dream I had."  And her Twitter bio reads: “Survived the abortion.”  And she also just put this excellent thing on Buzzfeed.  The point I am trying to make is that Erin LaRosa is obviously smart, and can be very funny.   If I were talking to her right now, which I guess in a way I am, I would point to that Dunkin Donuts thing and say, Erin, WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE?  

(I am notorious for reading the riot act to talented young writers when I think they can do much better. Once, a young lady was so overcome she reached for the first soft thing to cry into; it turned out to be an adult diaper.   She also got a LOT better real quick.)

The atrocious Dunkin Donuts “piece” arrived at Buzzfeed one day recently. My first thought is that it was satire; but no, no hint of that.   On Twitter, I immediately demanded that Buzzfeed either defend this thing, explain it, or best of all, just take it down and pretend it never happened. They did none of these things. Instead, Buzzfeed’s editor, chivalrously protecting his lady, accused me of being a parody of a cantankerous old-media fud. Which may be the case. But I ask you to consider another possibility:

The New Media, experimenting lustfully on broad new canvas, are creating things of beauty, things of consequence, things of interest; they are righting wrongs, being smart and silly and boring; they are mostly having fun.  They are also occasionally making dreadful mistakes of tone and texture, sometimes  because they haven’t quite yet figured out what they are, and because they do not have a hundred years’ experience in knowing what pratfalls to avoid.

Buzzfeed is a strange product; in part, it is snarky, curated lists of silly, aggregated viral things.  But in part, it wants to be bigger; Buzzfeed is beginning a project to launch into serious long-form journalism.

So why does it countenance vapid, suck-up content to put before potential advertisers?  Why will it run something assembled with an I.Q. of 60, for the entertainment of readers of similar intellect, without any sense of irony?    Why will it declare to its readers that Buzzfeed's ultimate threshold for quality and substance, for separation of editorial content from advertorial content, from corporate suck-up content is … zero?

This piece has no reason for being.  It's not clever.  It's not funny.  It's not utilitarian: It doesn’t help anyone find a great place nobody knows about.   It doesn’t even explain intelligently WHY DD might be better than other donut places (uh, because it isn’t.)  It’s just over the top pap about a giant corporation that everyone is familiar with and that the author, for some reason (because a cute picture of a dog?) seems to orgasz over. (I believe I just invented the previous verb.  With your help, in 20 years, it will be in the OED.)

Listen, Buzzfeed: You cannot separate one part of you from another.  You need a personality.  To remain viable and believable, there has to be a base level of competence, or quality control.  If you are doing sass, or humor, it has to conform to the same basic quality standards that your investigative journalism has.   Otherwise, you're a confusing mess of tone and texture.

Here’s a lesson from an Old Media guy:  Any time a reporter writes something – whether it’s news, or a feature, opinion, or humor – that winds up getting gushy thanks from some corporation or politician, that reporter knows in his heart he screwed up, big time.

HOW MANY DONUTS DID DD SEND YOU, ERIN?  SIX HUNDRED THOUSAND?

In response to my scorn on twitter, Erin asked me what is wrong “with a fangirl piece.”   I’ll answer her here, and be done with it.

There IS no such thing as a “fangirl piece.”  That is not a genre of anything.  That is a shrug of ineptitude.  A shrug of lassitude.   That is having nothing to write, so writing crap instead.  Don't do it anymore, Erin.  You're better than that.   Good.   Here's an adult diaper.     

Okay, let's chat.  Begins at noon sharp.

You don't seem to have considered the possibility that the Dunkin Donuts piece on Buzzfeed was paid content, product placement on steroids, if you will. That's the only purpose I could possibly see for it.

It was not !    I asked.  

If it had been, there would have been a different problem.  You don't run stealth ads.  You have to clearly label an ad an ad.  Buzzfeed is actually pretty good at that.

See how insidious this is?  You weren't sure.  You ASSUMED that it was paid for.     There should never ever be such a doubt.   Buzzfeed owes the world a stammering apology.  Don't hold your breath.

Can you please please please help me understand why the pro-gun people keep arguing that "criminals will find a way" to get guns? It is the most ridiculous argument, because it is completely factually devoid. Why aren't people convinced of the statistics in Europe, Japan, Australia, etc. that clearly show that there are far fewer gun deaths in these countries than in the U.S.?

What else can they say?  They have the blood of thousands on their hands, and they are not yielding an inch to common sense.  They need to say something, so they come up with a statement that can't be refuted because it's based on an un-testable supposition.

It's advertising.

Nope.  At least not paid-for.    They do this from time to time, a ridiculous genre of listicle.   This was the worst, but look at this one

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Not that you're young any more. But you can do so much better than you often do.

But I'm too old to be read the riot act.  Or to care, if I were.   And it would have to be read by someone older.  And there IS no one older.   So I'm a lost cause.

Hello, I'm CBS. I used to be the most respected outfit in television journalism until that moronic Dan Rather took over editorial control and the whole thing began its crawl into the crapper. I'm also responsible for exposing Big Bang Theory and 2.5 Men to millions and millions of people to make a lot of money to pay the bills. As an expert in this field, I can tell you that Buzzfeed isn't making jack on "serious journalism" compared to what it can make on listicles.

I have no problem with listicles.   I like em.  I love the one I linked to, by the selfsame clever Erin.    I am opposed to MINDLESS SUCKUPPY listicles that can't be distinguished from ads.

During the summer, the interns in our office were fascinated with the Titan Arum, a/k/a the Corpse Plant, that bloomed in the U.S. Botanic Garden, and they all slipped out at lunch on blooming day to see it in its full stinkin' glory. One of them, who was 6 ft. 4, or maybe 6-6, felt a particular connection to the Titan, (based on their height, not their aromatic qualities), and was moved to write this poetic tribute, which with his permission, I pass on, and hope you will share with your readers. No flower has matched your poise, your grace Nor caused such tears to journey down my face; We grew together, both taller than our counterparts To the Titan Arum: Which smells like rotten body parts

Well, I cannot countenance rhyming "counterparts" with "body parts."  That's not even ballpark.   I would suggest:  " ... both taller than our peers"     and  "... smells like farts from beers."

So obviously, Diana Nyad is pretty awesome. But, did you know she's also a pretty great aptonym?

I always assumed she TOOK that name, and confirmed that a few weeks ago when I learnt she was born Diana Sneed.  So, fie on her.

Except...

I just now learned that her dad died when she was young and her ma remarried a Nyad!   So she remains cool.

I really like a plain doughnut and dislike extra sugar and stuff and I never drink coffee, so that is wasted on me. I had a private bathroom when I worked at the Navy Medical Center and it was OK, but not worth all that much either. No answer. And the color test is flat out just too much work. I could do it, but why? Good luck.

The color test was fun but humbling.   I finished absolutely convinced I had nailed it, and got a 48.

The gun thing is really like a religion. A fervent belief that flies in the face of data and common sense. These folks will always believe, just like the ones that are convinced all the animals in the world fit on a 450 foot boat.

Bill Hicks had a great riff on guns.  How in England, where guns are outlawed, there were 17 gun deaths the previous year, whereas in the U.S., where guns provide private little stiffies  for much of the population, there were 93,000 gun deaths the previous year.   Then Hicks argues that OBVIOUSLY there is no connection between these two sets of facts.

I was surprised at the lack of intellectual curiosity you displayed in Sunday's column. You appeared to be reading from a Michael Pollan-generated talking points list, hearing reasonable responses to those points, and then saying "Ha ha! He can't be promoting animal welfare because his idea of animal welfare is not in line with my idea of animal welfare!" Did you mean something else by the column?

Steve Kopperud will be delighted to know that you felt his responses were reasonable.

I wasn't really writing about whether his responses were reasonable.   The column was about whether there is any defense to calling his group an "Animal Welfare Coalition."

 

As a member of the stone-age media, albeit a younger member, I'd ask that you please stop embarrassing us by being what I can only call a shanda for the modern age. Every time you can't accept something that someone else is doing online, judging them by your antiquated views of writing, it makes us all look bad. Just as the Washington Post can have serious investigative stories and multiple pages of comics, there's nothing wrong with Buzzfeed having a variety of content. I like the "fangirl/fanboy" pieces they do there. If you happen to love what they're discussing there's a definite satisfaction in it. If you don't like it, fine, but you're reading FAR too much into it, and sounds like a massive fuddy-duddy in doing so. Incidentally, the spell check doesn't like "fuddy-duddy" but it suggested "faddy-duddy", "ruddy-duddy", and "muddy-duddy" instead.

Good.   Noted.   We have a vote for the stupid stuff.

No, seriously, here's the thing, IMO:  Yes, the Washington Post has comics, but in their mind they are choosing the comics with the same high standards they show with everything else.  (Yes, I know, I know; but they THINK they are.  They're trying.  Same with sports.   They pay a lot of money to get a better sports section than most other places.)  

When I read that Dunkin' Donuts thing in Buzzfeed, I think Buzzfeed has no standards.   They put any crap out here.    Crap stinks up the whole joint.

Did you read about the Kansas University professor who was suspended after tweeting something to the effect that, in the wake of the Washington Navy Yard shootings, the only thing that might change the NRA's mind re gun control would be if some of their own family members were killed in a mass shooting? I thought that SCOTUS's Rankin v. McPherson decision protected such speech.

Well, even if it does, a college has the right to decide whether it wishes to employ someone, based on his speech.  It would be legal for me to say I think there's nothing wrong with rape, but the Wapo would have completely acceptable grounds to decide they do not wish me to represent the paper anymore.

Just this minute I received an email announcing a call for papers for a conference on Surrealism.

Rabid mushroom wistfulness.

Gene, I know there's a word for the opposite of an aptonym, but I don't remember it. But here's an example I found on NPR's "Morning Edition" last week: Classifying obesity as a disease "sets people who are heavier up to believe there's something wrong with them and they're going to get sick unless they do something about it," according to Linda Bacon, a professor of nutrition at City College of San Francisco and the author of the book "Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth about Your Weight."

"Linda Bacon, professor of nutrition" is just fabulous.   She should write a book with Shehzil Transfat, who doesn't exist but should.

Gene Today, I am wearing a pair of underwear I bought in Italy. The store sells exceptionally comfortable and well fitting underwear. Unfortunately, the only clean pair left this morning is a red hot pair with a red devil and an angel on the front, with something in Italian underneath the pair and it probably says something devilish. My question is: have I increased the odds of getting into a car accident today?

Only if you are a woman.   If you are a man, you wouldn't care, so the odds stay the same.

I'm taking this moment to relish that for the next month, I can still take the "34 and younger" poll. This switching in options for polls is going to be a hard transition.

Yeah, well imagine how I feel:  In three years, my DAUGHTER will be in the 35 and older poll. 

On your preferred rating scale, where does "irregular heartbeat" rank in terms of concern? It's an extra "kachunk" every once in a while. I don't have any warning signs of a medical emergency and do have an appointment scheduled with my doctor, so please don't worry that I'll have a heart attack before the end of the chat. Dr. Google makes it sound like it could be anywhere from "just a thing" to "you're getting a pacemaker."

Dr. Google is right.  

Do you also like to go around to retail establishments, coffee shops, diners, reception desks, and temp agencies, in order to find underemployed and over-educated young workers who have in the moment given up on doing better than scraping by, so you can taunt that they are worthless human beings who are wasting their lives, because you have not had a life-changing experience in your interaction? Or this an online-only thing, because it's easier when it's not face-to-face? I suspect that the piece Erin LaRosa submitted is commensurate with what she received for it (both directly as money and indirectly as opportunity). Whereas the pieces you want her to exclusively write would not be. So if you are that upset that the quality doesn't satisfy your standards, maybe try focusing your outrage at the part of the economic system where it belongs, instead of snarking at a convenient punching bag. Right now, you come across like her (slightly NSFW video).

I think you should go back and read what I wrote and see if what you wrote is justified.

What was perhaps most disappointing about the Dunkin' Donuts piece is that there is, in fact, a strong Buzzfeed listicle to be written about DD. No seriously: DD is one of those chains that, despite objectively not being very good (DD is *fine*, their coffee better than gas-station, their glazed donuts perfectly acceptable), has a HUGE regional following - to the point of being an extra-commercial cultural touchstone - in a part of the country. This would be, broadly, coincident with "Red Sox Nation," and the mawkish devotion to a mediocre product is something that could, in fact, be good grist for Buzzfeed's mill. Indeed, DD serves for Greater Boston the same kind of function that Tim Horton's serves for Greater Canadia, so some sort of New England-Canadia rivalry listicle (or two!), a complementary Waffle House piece, and so on. But no. She had to actually claim - and this is the real crime here - that DD serves good products, not just serviceable products irrationally appreciated by a regional audience (yes, DD is a national chain, but nobody loves it like Boston). And this claim is verifiably false. This is the great shame against journalism - not the existence of this listicle, or its premise, but its execution.

I would call it an "offense" against journalism.

Gene, When I lived in New Orleans, the locals said that the Animals version of the lyrics were changed and meant to describe Orleans Parish Prison. What windows there are at OPP all face the east, hence, House of the Rising Sun. If you read their lyrics with this context in mind, rather than the house of prostitution, they actually make sense. Just thought I'd pass that along.

Interesting.   Well, except:  It was a woman's prison.   So still even if true, it's still a song about a woman. 

This site says the population of the US is 295.7 million while the popluation in England is 60.4 million. So of course we'd have more gun deaths. We have more people. Simple math shows that England had 1 gun death per 3.6 million people while the US had 1 gun death per 3.2 thousand people so...um...nevermind.

THERE IS NO CONNECTION.

Note to sticklers: I made the numbers up.   But they were ballpark right, in comparison.   Very few gun deaths in England.

I am older than you are, and I hereby read you the Riot Act. "Our Sovereign Lord the King chargeth and commandeth all persons, being assembled, immediately to disperse themselves, and peaceably to depart to their habitations, or to their lawful business, upon the pains contained in the Act made in the first year of King George the First, for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies." (I don't know what to do about the fact that your chat is a tumult and a riotous assembly in itself.)

Is this Horace?   Horace LaBadie recently wrote an excellent script for B&C involving The Riot Act.

Perhaps this question is better put to one of the very many Post political pundits, but I'll throw it out there. It seems to me that one of the problems with Congress today, and a key root cause of its current gridlock (and I say this in a politically-neutral way, since I'm unimpressed with both sides of the aisle at the moment) is the lack of an effective schmoozer in power. Lyndon Johnson could get things done; President Obama seems to be less effective at working Congress (I think he thought Congress generally would bend to his will more than it has; he's not the first President for which this is true). And, for Boehner's part, he's no Sam Rayburn. Gone are the days when a Speaker could work deals and lean on his/her colleagues to get major legislation through. There's always gridlock, of course; that's the way the system was designed. But is it also a relationship problem, do you think?

I think that's half the answer.   The other half is the whole Tea Party / gerrymandering  tail-wags-dog disaster that is the Republican caucus.   The kids are in control, and they're soiling their pants.  

I blame Boehner more than anyone else.  He is a weak man. 

Gene, you were the FIRST person I thought of when I saw this!

Yes, indeed.  I am writing a column on this very subject.  My question: What does "prairie dogging it" mean?

Hi Gene - The enlightening discussion of "Hound Dog" and "House of the Rising Sun" coupled with the Judge Parker bikini censorship got me thinking, how is it that the completely transparent double-entendre of the word "come" is permitted all over the radio, as in Norah Jones' hit single: "Don't Know Why I didn't Come"? Is it just the veneer of plausibility that we are talking about the other meaning of the word when used as a verb? I have always wondered why this is okay. Thanks.

Come again?

Jeez. Calm down, grumpy. I loved the DD piece because when I was growing up, my family was poor, and my night-shift steelworker dad would from time to time take us to Dunkin Donuts and let his four- and five-year-old kids pick whichever one of those colorful sugar bombs we wanted. I know they're not the best donuts, probably not even top ten, but that piece made me smile and think I'm going to go to a store tonight and buy a donut for dinner, just for nostalgia's sake. And not even from Dunkin Donuts because there aren't any near me. Chill out, man.

Okay!  

"Yes, the Washington Post has comics, but in their mind they are choosing the comics with the same high standards they show with everything else. " You can't really believe that can you? They choose comics that they think will attract the most readers. Period.

As a comics writer who is more than occasionally forced to change the content of a particular strip, on grounds of perceived offensiveness I can ASSURE you that the Post cares about the specifics of content.  They edit the comics.  They are almost alone in this.

Gene, I saw the following license plate today here in Virginia: PHQ @ CUE I'm using the @ sign to stand for the Don't Tread On Me snake that appears on our Commonwealth's "Tea Party" license plates. I, for one, find this lowbrow effort to ridicule or abuse the rest of the citizens of the Old Dominion quite offensive. Also, I don't like the letters they picked for their license plate.

You can get an @ in a license plate???? 

Hey, I hope you all know what ~@~ does when you use it in a gchat box, right?  No?  Try it.

 

Can you, perchance, explain what the heck Boswell meant in his 9/9 article when he wrote, "The Redskins looked like ducks in the headlights..." Did a copy editor miss the mixed metaphor? Was he actually trying to be clever? (and I ask this as someone whose idea of wearing apparel to support the home team is this )

I wanted to be with you on this, but listen to yourself.  You are saying he should have used a tired cliche instead of a variation.  Ducks do cross roads, famously, and I bet they'd  be paralyzed by headlights too.   And they are also... sitting ducks.  

I'm with Boz here.

Then I remembered Andy's Brillo Box. Same thing to me. And for some reason they give me a similar reaction.

Now, that's an interesting comparison.   Is that DD listicle.... art?   Art masquerading as bad Internet?

Think of a prairie dog popping up out of a hole and then popping back down. Then picture the same thing happening upside down. Got it?

So, pooping into a hole in the ground?

This specific example of the DD article aside, Buzzfeed deliberately dispenses with the kind of editorial standard-setting you are calling for as part of their business model. In addition to the content posted by their employees, ANYONE can join the site and post their own listicles and other types of blog posts, which Buzzfeed then sells advertising against just as it does with the employee-generated content. Moreover, when applying for a job at Buzzfeed, you have a better chance of success if you are already blogging there for free. In essence, they fundamentally disagree (through their words and actions) with your assertion that crap content besmirches their brand. They probably see it as less problematic when the tradeoff is "building engagement" and "growing a community" etc etc. (That said, I agree with you, and this is coming from a Bostonian who goes to DD every day for mediocre coffee)

Okay, interesting.   But if Buzzfeed uses that load of poo to then try to sell ads to Dunkin Donuts?  They need to be exposed for the horror they are.   I have no evidence they do that.   Do they?

Is the opposite of aptonym, no?

Correct.

How can I trust a media source that lists Publix AND Wegman's as the best grocery store (when OBVIOUSLY only Wegman's is)?

Oh, man.   CAN YOU NAIL THIS DOWN, BUZZFEED?

The actual numbers for 2012 are: England + Wales, 41 (0.07 per 100,000) US, 9,146 (2.97 per 100,000). You are about 42 times more likely to be killed by a gun in the US than in England. And that's just homicides, not accidents, which would presumably skew the numbers further. So, there's that.

Good.  Thank you.

The difference is that Kansas University is a public employer, while the Post is a private one. Public employees have more protection. And since he was listed as an Associate Professor, presumably he's tenured, so has a legal property-right to the tenure and to due-process for the rescinding of it. By comparison, unless you have a contract you're an at-will employee who can be dismissed at any time for any reason or no reason at all, so long as it's not an illegal reason (e.g., for discrimination based on belonging to a protected category).

Interesting.

If Boehner wasn't in office, it would be some other fartbag. Politician shouldn't be a career, it should be a public service position that doesn't pay beans.

I disagree.  I think it should pay more than it does.    We should reduce the temptation of graft, not increase it.

First off I scored alright on the Color Acuity test. Some things are wrong with using this test, first, I assure you that every person taking that test is used an non RGB standard LCD panel, unless they are a photo editor. This means the colors are not correct, and will vary for each person's monitor. Second, color is subject to optical illusion, which will make colors that are close match what you expect. You will see the right color, even if in a different context you might be able to tell the difference. Thirdly, the ability to see red is a X linked trait and this is why women, with 2 x chromosomes, will always score better on colors differentiation overall. Science, it works xxxxxx!

Noted.

As you pointed out in the last chat, some of us fellas get really hungry when we and a lady friend have been out drinking. But I have to put Denny's outstanding 3 a.m. pancakes in second place, since I really prefer to eat at the Y.

"Really prefer to eat at the Y"  !  

An early commercial. Does this get your motor running? 

Her hair!  Her hair! 

Okay, I have a question.  We look at that hair today and it is self-evidently ludicrous.  Clearly, at the time, it was glamorous.   How does this happen?   How can it be that the vagaries of what is "in" blinds us to an obvious, easily apparent truth?    This is not like, say, a Nehru jacket, which might be seen as elegant, or even like polyester, which delivered a burst of vibrant color loud enough for us to not see that it was obviously made from grease.    This hairstyle is just instantly ludicrous.   How does it happen?

And most to the point:  What styles of today will look equally comical in 50 years, other than the exposed underpants look for teenage boys?

Gene - In the Post Weekend section on Sept. 13, there was an ad for a "Beer, Bourbon & BBQ" festival in Reston. I found their slogan quite funny but was left wondering if they meant it the way I read it. I'm in my sixties. Has one of the verbs they use changed meaning over the years? Or do they know exactly what they're doing?

Wow.   I don't know.   I love it though. 

In the past, House leaders would use earmarks as a way of buying votes. The leader would say vote for this and we will give your district some money for something. Those have been disallowed so the greatest tool for pressuring members is gone. The only remaining tool is committee chair assignments and I do not think any of the tea party Republicans assume they would ever be given a committee chair position by the current leadership.

Several people have made this observation.  That should have been predictable, no?  

By the way, is there anyone within the reach of these pixels -- Dem, Rep, Whig, whoever -- who has anything complimentary to say about Boehner?  He seems like the most contemned man on the planet.   Not hated, exactly, just completely disrespected.

I disagree about not having an effective Schmoozer in Power. I think the political environment is so completely different and poll based these days that politicians can't make "back room deals" to get their bills passed. Throughout history there have been under the table agreements/deals (Lincoln and the 13th amendment) and things actually got done. It may have had a sneaky element to it but things got done! The constant campaigning combined with a completely different media landscape makes this type of wheeling and dealing very difficult. Of course, that shouldn't matter to Obama now but then he's not dealing with a rational group of people.

Obama also seems to be unusually unskilled / uninterested in schmoozing.   I think history will be unkind on that.   Even the Dems say he is aloof. 

Meaning you can not be charged with a crime for speaking your mind. Does not mean your employer is obligated to continue your employ if they don't like you any more.

Right.

.... in the color acuity poll, but it's achievable, apparently! I'm female, 33, and this still doesn't make up for 14-year-old me's (clinical) inability to see those stupid 3D magic eye images. Remember when they were EVERYWHERE? Ugh.

Yep, I have heard from several 0's .   And they are all women.

When are you and Gina going to write another book together? You know you want to . . .

Gina, I TOLD you I'm thinking about it. 

I did the color test on my crappy old HP laptop and all the colors were super muddy and I couldn't see much of a difference between them. I scored a 96! Then I looked at the same test on my ipad and the difference is night and day - I can actually see gradations in hue that just aren't there on my laptop. Unfortunately, I can't seem to complete the test on the ipad, but this test is definitely biased towards those with better quality computer monitors. Next time my boyfriend brings home his mac laptop, I'm taking it again.

My Mac laptop didn't help me much.   Though maybe without it, I'd have gotten a 96 instead of a 48.

I'd love to make guns illegal. But it's like making heroin illegal. We want them, have easy access to them, and making them illegal won't actually remove them. Making heroin illegal didn't stop you, Gene, did it? So, gun control won't work well here, as much as I wish it would.

It would be a very gradual process.  I agree with someone from last chat who noted the problem must be fought on several grounds, including a PR campaign to change the culture.    Telling people guns are not cool.  Chicks don't like guys with guns.    Etc.    Long, long term.   It happened with smoking.

As a female, I answered "no" to the pooping question, purely because I have ulcerative colitis and long, long ago learned to get over any poop shame I might have ever felt in my life. The only reason I might maybe THINK about taking that pay cut is if I can make that bathroom up any way I want it - with a TV, game system, foot massager, beer fridge, something that would act as a perk to justify said pay cut. Otherwise, why bother? I'm curious to hear from the small percentage of women who said "yes".

Yes, please.   By noon, there were about 60 people -- more women, but not by a lot -- who opted for their own pooper.  Let's hear from them.  What's the calculus?

I would bet that the writer spent some of her formative time in New England. I have an irrational love for the place because it literally fueled my law school career. It's still a stupid piece, but the Dunkin' Donuts fangirl/fanboy stuff is regionally explainable.

Repeat:  "fangirl" is not a genre.    If that's all you got, spike it.

I got a perfect score, zero, on the color test. Yes, I'm a woman. No, I am not artistic.

Are there ANY men who got a zero? 

See, the poster who talked about how their "night-shift steelworker dad would from time to time take us to Dunkin Donuts" was much more moving in one paragraph than a supposed editor was in her entire piece. The problem with the Buzzfeed "article" was that it was emotionally shallow and vapid, without anything in it to make me interested in her love of this company and its products. There was no "there" there.

It also seemed to make the argument that one reason to love Dunkin donuts is that here is a picture of a dog. 

A friend in a low-gun-owning nation in Europe was assaulted in his bed in the wee small hours by his ex-wife's estranged lover. My friend awoke to find the guy clubbing him with a crowbar and slashing at him with a knife. My friend managed to fight back (somewhat) against his assailant, although he suffered terrible bruises, deep cuts on his hands and arms (from fighting back), and worst of all his throat was slit 1/4 of the way around. Still, he survived (his teenaged daughter was awakened by the commotion and called the local equivalent of 911, twice). In our gun culture, the attacker would've put a bullet in my friend's head without him ever waking up (like what happened to Phil Hartman or Mrs. Lanza in Newtown). Instead, my friend is alive and has largely recovered from his life-threatening wounds, save for some neuropathy in his hands and a nasty scar on his neck, and the attacker is in prison.

THERE IS NO CONNECTION.  

He hasn't been indicted.

Good.  Keep em coming.

has the best fake tan in the history of the state of Ohio (and that's sayin' somethin'!).

That can't be fake, can it?   If you're going to go fake, surely you will do better than that.

I'm from Ohio, near his district. I'm conservative but disenchanted with the GOP. He's lost his way. I don't think he anticipated being in the hot seat this long, and he's run out of energy, favors, whatever. If he was a committee chair or a pundit, he'd be fine - but it's a combination of running out of steam and the Peter Principle.

I'll count this as a compliment.

I just see him showing no character; no guts.  No ovaries.   He's being led around by the nose by the youngsters who are in safe raw-red districts. 

This is when you're trying to hold a poo, but it keeps on peeking out just a little before you tighten back up. See also: Touching Cotton. Love, Your Friendly Neighborhood Weeping Pooper

Ohhhhh.   This is a thing?   Wow.   This disturbs even me, just a little.   So it's like vomiting a little in your mouth.

I'd vote for Boehner in an election against Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Mike Lee or Sarah Palin.

Good.  This is practically a love-fest here !

Gene, how much do you think politicians would have to be paid to be graftproof? At what point would they be satisfied? When I think about that, all I hear are Sondheim lyrics-- "Any number is fine with me, as long as it's more!"

I think they should be paid commensurately with what business execs of similar influence/importance are paid.  The business world should not be seen as a reward for years of public service.    I think it is utterly ridiculous that the president of the United Stakes makes about what a 29-year-old third-year associate at a big law firm makes.

Something complimentary to say about Boehner? His hair is always clean. He's still married to his first wife. Um. That's all I can come up with (and I had to read his official bio to get that much).

His official bio says his hair is always clean?

i would trade 2 percent of my salary for a private bathroom so i could get away from the noise and ALL the people for a few minutes, a few times a day. It would reduce my stress considerably, but has nothing to do with poop shame.

Interesting.  Thanks.   I like that.  

To be fair, you didn't explicitely say you HAD to use it primarily for pooping. It would be a nice option to have when you occassionally have an emergency need at work (sidenote: what is with people who regularly poop at work? just want the thrill of getting paid while doing it?), but I would like it for primping opportunities, a place to store extra clothes and change when I get into work (I bike commute). Basically I would like a larger, more private cubicle, and if that comes in the form of a bathroom I will take it!

Also, interesting. 

Hey, uh.   Some people seem to think that it is usually possible to poop only when and where you want to.  Is this a common conception/ability?  

So, have you found plenty of interesting stories about December 28, 1986?

Many, but I am still in a desperate search.  Thanks for reminding us all.   December 28, 1986.   The Sunday between Xmas and New Years of the year of the Challenger and Chernobyl.    I am writing a book about it, an ordinary day selected at random.  

I need stories.   Write to me at gene.weingarten(at)washpost.com

They know exactly what they are doing.

Yeah, I think so, too.

A man who is not afraid to show emotion (i.e., tears) at tender moments.

Awww.  Though Gina once pointed out that the moments that bring him to tears (Boehner the Rainer) tend to be those that mythologize his life.

There is a popular song that drives me crazy every time I hear it. Why? Because it contains a factual error that goes against the basic message of the song. What do you do when you notice there's something (song, movie, ad, sign, novel, play, etc.) that contains an error that goes against the basic message . . . but you also realize that you are probably in the small minority who even notices it? I've tried ignoring it, justifying it as "artistic license", thought about trying to bring it up when anyone discusses the song, or hoping that most people don't even notice the words that create the error. I think I've decided to just add the feelings of outrage to my ball of hate. What do you do in a similar situation?

This is my nominee for the crappiest question of the day.  How does one pose this question and then not give the specific lyric?   Please leave the classroom.   Or tell us the song and the offending lyric, and then we will all make fun of you.  Thanks.

Is there anything non-toxic which I can eat that would make my stool fluoresce under a black light?

And THIS is the BEST question of the day.

You might appreciate this: I have yard rats. I was looking out the window into my neglected and somewhat overgrown side yard to see a little animal digging a hole. It took me a moment to figure it out, because it seems so out of context, but sure enough it was a rat. I did some looking and discovered that yard rats are actually a thing; they're a smaller species than the classic sewer rat, and they live in patches of ivy. I already had the exterminators coming out this week, because our basement is crawling with crickets. I'm terrified of crickets -- they're so unpredictable. You can rely on a cockroach to scurry away predictably in a straight line at ground level, but a cricket hops all over the place. Before you know it, it could be in your hair or down your shirt. And far from chirping, they bump around almost silently, so that out of nowhere you find yourself surrounded by a bunch of little kicking insect legs. Ideally, I would have my rat eat my crickets, which would solve half my problem, but I don't think life works that neatly. Oh, and just to show that my whole life is actually a sitcom: My inlaws are coming to town this week. I'm overrun with pests!

I really like this phraseology:

"Ideally, I would have my rat eat my crickets..."

Are you nuts? Why would I want to spend 20 minutes rearranging little slabs that look like varying shades of mildew? What a time suck. In fact, why am I on this chat at all???!!!!!

I don't know!!!??????!?!?@????~!?

It's more commonly known as turtle-heading. I'm completely serious.

Hahaha.

He isn't Nancy Pelosi.

In searching for Bad Speakers, I found a credible article making the argument that Pelosi was particularly effective ... in the "near great" tier under Rayburn and Henry Clay !

Last night I was watching old Emmys clips of the Golden Girls, and came across this one - Estelle Getty and Cybill Shepard tied for the award. Ok, since you were an adult in the 80s, can you explain to me Cybill's glasses in this??????? They're awful. I realize that maybe she was having eye problems and wore the glasses out of necessity, but still. I can't handle this look.

Ooh, this is interesting.  I have been watching a lot of 1986 video and these glasses were typical.   It was the era -- the year, actually, of the biggest glasses.

My point was that a person has a lower chance of surviving an attempted killing when a gun is used than when other weapons are, because there can be some possibility of fighting back.

I understood that, yes.

I seriously wonder if people like Erin La Rosa are hoping to be discovered as copy writers and think they will make big bucks by being paid to write "new media" advertising, which they can't really define except that it will be measured in hits or views or likes. I'm not much of a writer, but I'm a reader. I know I could be entertained by a piece that waxes nostalgic for the smell of donuts fresh from the fryer, and how the writer remembers being taken to DD every Sunday with their grandfather, who once let them taste his coffee, and how at the time they thought tasted TOTALLY the opposite of how it smelled. With much better word choices, of course. But her piece was simply a regurgitation of DD ads and their corporate talking points. (Of course DD has corporate talking points. Any company with more than a few dozen people has talking points.) It had no personality. No individuality. It was mere wallowing in commercialism. THAT is why I thought it was the most vapid thing I have read in years.

Yeah, this says it better than I did.   Or if it had been presented as the writer's obsession, with a sense of humor and an acknowledgement that it is illogical.  Then it would really be an essay about the nature of brand-obsession, or whatever.   This was a 60-IQ essay.   A sloppy ol' wet kiss to a place with billions of bucks that would have paid for that, and, who knows, might make some room in their ad budget for Buzzfeed next year.    Or maybe they already advertise?

Wonder if you've come across something like this before: when I eat too much sugar (for example, I just finished off a large slice of pumpkin roll), I get a very strange taste in the back of my mouth. The closest example I can come up with is onions, but that's not quite it. It happens every time I eat a lot of sugar in one go; consequently, I tend to avoid rich desserts. But just wondering if anyone else suffers from this same malady. (Are my taste buds becoming overwhelmed? Am I killing them?)

I am not identifying with this.  But want to pose one of my own.  Sometimes I will bite into something that is not sour (say, an ordinary, sweet apple) and my mouth will react as though it is a lemon.... an actually painful jolt of sour.   It goes away immediately, and future bites of the same thing do not produce the same result.

Can anyone identify with either phenomenon?

I'm not sure why you think this. Was there some study or publication that stated this? Just look at the first picture.

This is in reference to my statement that when we generalize child molesters, they are male and fastidiously groomed, in the model of this guy or this guy.

I see your point.   This is quite a story.  I bet the writer regrets describing the guy as "paunchy," though, with that photo right there.   He's "paunchy" the way Shaq is "big boned."

What are your thoughts on the guy in Massachusetts who bought all of the paraphernalia needed to trap and torture a child, but who never actually acted out on any of it. Do you think his sentence should be minimal because this was technically a fantasy or do you think his sentence should be as long as possible within the law to make sure he isn't out on the streets because he was caught before some child came to tremendous harm? While I understand he did look at child pornography, that was the extent of the harm that he inflicted.

Okay, well.   This is the story here.     It is really repellent.    I think you have to give this guy whatever the law allows, because to me his intent was clear.   But this kind of thing bothers me: He's going to be overly punished because of an assumption.   I'm not crazy about that.  

You know what else I don't love?   Putting someone in jail because of something that is 100 percent sting: where there never was a potential victim.   Internet-invented "children" who lure perverts into meeting them.   I get the strategy, I understand even why it may be necessary, but it leaves me feeling great unease.

There was a case some years ago where a lawyer got on a plane, flew to another city and met a woman who had told him she'd lend him her infant girl for sex.   Yech.  No question he intended to do it.   It's the most effective way of finding and catching him.  He was a threat, a clear and present danger to unknown persons. B ut there never was a girl.     I support the sting, but with the overwhelming reservations.   The guy hanged himself in his cell before arraignment.  

Postscript on this Massachusetts case:   If you busted into my house, you'll find a child's coffin in the basement!  It was an art project my strange son did for high school.   He was going to equip it with a peephole, like for a door.   And there would be a child's shoes and socks outside.   It would be stood up against the wall at an art gallery.   The "show" would be a secret videotape: seeing how many people looked in the peephole, and how they approached it.

And the journal acronym isn't too bad either: http://www.pnas.org/

One more name like that and I wouldn't have believed it. 

Hi Gene, Your chat seemed like the only place I could ask about this. OK, so I've heard that asparagus gives a certain smell to the pee in some portion of the population. And then, only a certain portion of the population can smell asparagus pee (these aren't necessarily the same people). Well, before I had my daughter, I was apparently both a pee-er and a smeller. But ever since my daughter was born 2.5 years ago, if I eat asparagus, I don't smell it in my pee! So I wonder if my pee chemistry has changed, my sense of smell has changed, or both? Has this happened to anyone else?

Dis, I never hoid !   Putting it out there.

Please note that I am beginning the international space-before-an-exclamation-point revolution massacree.   I have been doing this for weeks now.  It is liberating.  Like growing a second penis.

I scored a 15 on that color test, which puts me ahead of most guys my age (or just says something about the color depth of my computer monitor). And yet... Two weeks ago, while my wife was out of town, I stained the wood shingles on the front of our house. I picked a warm terra-cotta hue that I liked. When she got back, she hauled me out into the driveway to make me see that the color clashes with our shutters. I couldn't. There's something more going on here than just the ability to differentiate colors. It's thinking about colors, or feeling about them, or I don't know what. My point is, those shingles are now weatherproofed.

I was delighted to see  in our poll results that the youths are no more tolerant of the crappy Buzzfiller than the oldies are.  The youths are actually a little LESS tolerant.   Good going, kids.   The Web has not eaten your soul yet.

So my pre-conception was wrong there.    With the colors, it was as we all expected.   The ladies are seeing colors better.   Why?   In "I'm With Stupid," Gina explains that in the animal kingdom, the boys are generally the ones with the more elaborate  colors, meaning the girls need the chops to distinguish fancy from REALLY fancy.    I'll buy that.

I took this from a purely economic viewpoint. I am paid based on output. Thus, every time I have to take a poop, but someone else is in there, I have to either go #1 and return shortly thereafter or I have to sit and wait for people to leave. Sometimes this process of bathroom checking and returning has taken 30 minutes. In that time, I could be producing work. So having my own toilet would allow me more time to complete my work, thereby earning more in the process. I just started working from home full-time and the bathroom time has been seriously reduced. And my production is up.

You are a girl, right?  The only-pooping-in-an-unoccupied bathroom seems a very female thing.

He isn't Newt Gingrich.

Well, he's also not Heinrich Himmler.  

The conversation in the previous chat about how it is unflattering for a woman to wear thong underwear after a certain age relates to my feelings on the grooming topic. The reason I only perform some minor neatening is this - in 20 years, after some potential kids, my body is not going to be as hot as it is now regardless, but do I want to give my mate a laundry list of things I used to do when I was younger to make myself "hotter" that I don't do any more that makes him consider trading me in for someone that does? You don't wear thongs any more, you don't strip the carpet anymore, etc. I think if you don't intend to do these types of grooming indefinitely you set yourself up to disappoint partners down the line. I'd rather take more minimal and natural grooming habits that I will maintain, into my marriage. Kind of like Billy Crystal's argument in When Harry Met Sally - he said he wouldn't take girlfriends to the airport because down the line he didn't want them saying "you never take me to the airport any more" and it becomes a big thing.

You are extremely neurotic.  I like you.

I have a friend who just had knee surgery. As a fellow sufferer, how much pain would you say he's in right now? (Please use Allie Brosh's chart)

I love this chart. And Allie Brosh.

You do not give me enough information.  If he had a meniscus trim, he is in quite bearable pain.  If he had double knee replacement, as I did, he is thinking of tearing out his IV and hanging himself by the tubing.

 

Since you're under new management, can we reconsider the poll that must not be named? To help the cause, I propose that it be addressed in a manner that is not purient, but medical. I desperately need some data. I suffer from frequent urinary tract infections, and have heard anecdotal suggestions for causes and preventions all of which are in your wheelhouse. I would like to know from women who do and do not get frequent (4+ per year) UTIs whether they (a) landscape (b) use some kind of physical barrier or (c) hover over public toilets. This is a public service that should fall squarely within Bezos' mission for the Post.

The ISSUE can be discussed.   I have not been allowed to put it in a poll; allegedly this would cause unease among the ladies, to be asked -- albeit anonymously -- how they groom.  We can put your query out to the masses though, right here and now.

Did you have any involvement in the children's book about your Joshua Bell story? It looks lovely.

It is lovely.   I did not have anything to do with it, including collectingly royalties.  I was tentatively asked, after the fact, if I approved; it occurred to me briefly to give them a hard time, and then I thought, nah.

That huge glasses clip made me realize that Betty White is the only one of the Girls still alive.

I always loved the fact that Estelle Getty was younger than most of them.  (Also, just a great comic actress.)

Gene, if breakfast is always coffee and a high-fiber smoothie, and you have a regular (hah!) wake-up time, then damn straight you're only going to poop when and where you want.

Not me.

I can send you a screenshot if you want. Important disclaimer: I'm a reporter for The Washington Post (based in the Style section), so my powers of observation and grasp of nuance are near-superhuman.

I am in awe.   I assume you are Zak.  

And with that, before I found out,  we close for the day.  Please leave questions for me.  And we'll meet in the updates.   Good chant.  Thanks.  

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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.

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