Chatological Humor: Monthly with Moron (Updated May 3)

Apr 26, 2011

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 was Tuesday, April 26 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: Journalism poll
Poll 2: Spirituality poll:
Ages 36 and younger - Ages 37 and older

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.

And good afternoon again. 

As the author of one of the more widely circulated takedowns of Dan Snyder, written after the Redskins owner filed an intimidating  lawsuit against the Washington City Paper, I feel I should weigh in this morning on Mr. Snyder's new calm and reasoned op-ed piece in The Post defending his lawsuit. 

I want to congratulate Mr. Snyder for finally doing the right thing -- namely, delegating responsibility to someone competent, and letting him or her do the work he or she is qualified to do, without butting in like an egomaniacal horse's ass and ruining everything.    Maybe he's learning something. 

I doubt if I'm going out on much of a limb by suggesting that Dan Snyder wrote nary a word of this reasonable, logical, conciliatory, professional, concise, almost humble plea for public understanding.     It lacked the threatening tone of his initial letters and the lawsuits, and it lacked all of the accompanying febrile, baseless charges:  That the City Paper pieces had been antisemitic, that they had somehow criticized Snyder's wife for her anti-cancer work, that they had alleged he had used Agent Orange to clear-cut trees, and whatnot.    All that's gone, at least in this op-ed, which, I repeat, appears to have been written by someone hired to be very smart and politically savvy and not Dan Snyderish.   

What's left is the thin thread upon which Mr. Snyder's lawsuit now seems to be dangling: that The City Paper misspoke when it said that as head of a telemarketing agency he had forged signatures to get subscribers to switch to Verizon.    The truth is that his company was fined $3 million for forging names at a time when Snyder was still in charge of it; it is highly unlikely that the boss himself did the forging, and in that sense, City Paper was less than precise.   I doubt that they'll lose a lawsuit against a public figure because of an imprecision.   But we'll see. 

Anyway,  congratulations to Dan.   On behalf of Redskins fans, here's hoping you extend your new butt-out policy to repair of your defensive line.    


How smart do you think turtles are?    Even pretty big ones have heads the size of thumb knuckles.   Two of them currently live in my house.   Pickles and Olive, both five year old Red Sliders,  seem reasonably content in their lives, adequatly challenged by all the intellectual rigors presented within an aquarium that meansures five feet by three.   In short, they are idiots. 

The other day, though something happened to make me wonder.    My kids and I put the turtles in the front yard, mostly for the entertainment of neighborhood kids, and watched as Pickles did something extraordinary. 

Turtles seem to have two impulses only:  1) Eat  and 2) Escape.    This second urge is fierce; wherever they are placed somewhere,  they instantly look for a way to leave that place and get somewhere else.    That is what they do.  That is pretty much all they do. 

So when placed in our front yard, they immediately try to get out of our yard into the next yard.    Here's where it gets interesting:  The yards are separated by metal fences that have vertical bars four and a half inches apart.    Pickles' carapice is six and a half inches in diameter at its widest.    Turtles move slowly, on their bellies.   This escape would seem to present an insuperable impediment.  

But no, we watched in amazement as  Pickles lumbered up to the fence,  considered it a moment, then tipped her body on a diagonal and popped right through.   

I took videos from my cellphone.   We did it twice.   Here, then, is Pickles the Problem Solver,  video one and video two.   

As Manteuffel notes, the thought processes in video two are apparent.  She backs away, turns around for a moment to consider the challenge: "Lessee, regroup. Okay, what are our assets? We are tough. We are determined. We are indestructible. A hypotenuse is always longer than the other two sides. Okay, we're going in."

The gigantic enormous news in the world of publishing today is that finally, after years, the great Roger Ebert got published in the New Yorker cartoon caption contest.   This was revealed with great fanfare and everyone is cheering this wonderful news, and the only thing that has not yet been pointed out -- not until this moment, right here -- is that Roger's entry is ... lame. 

Check it out, as it were, here. 

That's it?   An obvious F-word joke?    And nowhere near the depth or  beauty of the greatest F-word cartoon ever. 

I was going to fault Ebert, but as you can see, his other, non-winning captions are better.   Instead I fault the  judges -- cartoons editors of the New Yorker, whose choices week after week are inconsistent.   


Finally, please take today's polls.    I'm not surprised that you are a whole lot of doubters about spirituality, semi-surprised that of all the listed spiritualities, the one you seem to give greatest credence to is ... karma.   What's up with that?     But I am most surprised by your reaction to the Chris Jones blog item.  

You're not being judgmental!  You're giving the guy some slack to whine!   You don't let ME whine like that!

I know and like Jones, but my initial reaction was, c'mon, guy, man up.   This is about PRIZES. 

Then I remembered something right on point, about myself.    Several years ago, when I wrote the piece about The Great Zucchini, I knew it was a really good story, probably the best I'd ever written.    I also never expected it to win a Pulitzer, because of a decision I'd made in the writing:  By inserting myself as a character, I was facilitating the storytelling but violating an unwritten  rule.   Rulebreaking is not usually rewarded in any committee system, such as Pulitzer judging. 

And I didn't win, wasn't a finalist, and that was fine. 

It was only a year later, after I did win a Pulitzer Prize for the Joshua Bell story, that Tom the Butcher told me about a secret he and another Post editor had withheld for me:    The Zucchini story had been the last cut before the three finalists were selected, even though some of the judges thought it was  worthy.   It had been cut because some people had felt it was "too funny" to be a Pulitzer winner. 

There are a lot of things wrong with that rationale, not the least of which is that it was a very serious story -- it may have been about humor, but it was also about fear.  It pivoted on a murder-suicide, and the Jonestown massacre. 

The point here is that two friends of mine conspired not to tell me about this only until it was "safe" -- because they feared it would have turned me into an embittered, raging melancholic.   More of one than I already am, anyway.    They were probably right.  So who am I to criticize Jones?  

Take the poll.  

Okay, chat goes live at noon...

I was visiting my dermatologist a few weeks ago and passed by another medical office. The doctor is a colon/rectal surgeon. Name is Inder Bhat.

It certainly is.   I have a vague feeling I have linked to this before, but I am not recognizing the thrilling rush of wonderfulness that would have accompanied it.    

Last chat there was some discussion about good/bad April Fool's Day jokes. The difference is really quite simple. The goal is not just to get someone to believe a lie; it is to trick someone with something that is preposterous on its face. Spaghettis growing on trees, the space shuttle landing at a tiny local airport, a magazine changing its focus in a way that is offensive to most of its readers, Johns Hopkins changing its name to John Hopkins. After the reveal, the victim must realize just how ridiculous it was all along. In short - it must be something only a "fool" would believe.

That is exactly right.   See the next post.  

My brother told me about a time long ago when he and a colleague put a sign inside an elevator near their office. The sign said "The button for 5 is out of order - please press 2 and 3." Then they watched (surreptitiously) as people actually tried to do it.

In my experience, If you present something with enough gravitas and authority, people will believe almost anything.   ( I suppose it's a version of Hitler's Big Lie.) 

Weingarten's Little Lie:   Back before she was a famous feature writer, my friend Caitlin Gibson was just a bunnyrabbit freelancer, and she relied on my advice inordinately and unquestioningly.    After she wrote her first draft of this story about Caitlin Schroder, a little girl with dwarfism, Cait gave it to me for advice.   I told her it was great but that because the little girl was also named Caitlin, she needed to put in a clause saying that she was not related to the subject of the story.    Caitlin was perfectly ready to do this,  until I laughed.    After all, I had all this EXPERIENCE.  

Carapace, not carapice.

Argh.  Thank you. 

Gene, After reading Mr. Snyder's article in today's paper and thinking again that this guy doesn't seem to get it, I was thinking you might have a better idea how to turn around his public image than his current staff. If you were hired tomorrow as Dan Snyder's chief PR guy, what (realistic) steps would you take within the next year to make people actually like this guy. (And "fielding a competitive football team" cannot be one of them, because that ain't going to happen this year).

I would give an interview to 60 Minutes, and apologize for having been a bad owner, and lay out a good plan for being a good owner, and then follow it.  Within one year of really trying, he would be loved.   Fans WANT to love the team.   They WANT to love the management.   

What is this debate over double spacing after sentences. I have never heard of this in my 54 years on this planet (experiences on other planets not relevant to this discussion.) I do not know about education after when I attended, yet I was taught in school you space two spaces between sentences. When did they start teaching differently, and, more important, when did people begin looking down on us who do what we were taught to do?

I explained this in the last update.    Two spaces after a period, which is what I will do out of habit until the day I die, used to be necessary but no longer is.   It was needed in the era of the typewriter, where all letters took up the same amount of horizontal space.   That meant that the overall spacing of a document was much less regular (lot of space around the "i" not so much around an "m") , and therefore you needed EXTRA EXTRA space to show people where sentences ended. 

Hi Gene - you have also previously written about Louis C.K.'s rape jokes being funny. I think there was even a poll with video clips. That's how I discovered him, so I remember it, and his rape jokes are some of his funniest. I think you defended them as being rape-is-bad jokes, but they're still rape jokes about women. Sincerely, a woman who thinks sometimes rape jokes can be funny, and Louis C.K. is always funny.

Actually, if memory serves correctly, there were two Louis CK rape routines.   The first, which was funny, was about a woman who said no,  meant yes, and -- no, goldarn it, he was not going to take that chance.   That was funny.   It was ANTI-rape.  

He had another sequence I didn't find funny at all.   It was about how if he could go back in time, he wouldn't want to kill Hitler -- he'd rape Hitler.   Then he did a bit about how Hitler just couldn't get enthused or excited about genocide anymore, because he was so depressed.  

See, that was too close to reality for me; it felt wrong, making fun of the emotional burden of rape.   I think that was a misstep by the usually surefooted Mr. K.  

Perhaps you -- no wait, your son -- should spend a few months in jail and then tell us if it's funny.

Perhaps you should read the chat update in which I explained, in 3,000 words, how the roo-roo joke has nothing to do with prison rape, which I deplored.     But nah, better to just be pissed and hostile.   

Saw this story in our local Columbus Ledger-Enquirer and found the name of the first accused most appropriate.


Hi, Gene, Women pull their arms into their shirts and then lift them over their heads in order to avoid getting make-up on the collars. Thanks,

Thank you. 

I am a woman. I do not like messing my hair up when I take off a T-shirt, nor knocking my glasses off, or getting deodorant marks on the shirt. Oh yeah, I prefer it to not get turned inside out either.

And also thanks. 

Gene, did you update last week? After spending 15 minutes hunting around on the new Post website for your update, I finally gave up. This new format is not great.

I did, and I know. 

Haley, can you link to my last update? 

Sparky is away today.   Our producer is Ms. Haley Crum.   I shall call her The Cometologist.   

Ta-da! Here's Gene's update from last week. You can find his weekly updates on the original chats pages.

Andrew Sullivan stated: "The Pulitzers are less, it seems to me, a true measure of quality. What they are is what most awards are: a reflection of a professional elite's view of who is respectable and who isn't. It's about reputation, and safety, not quality and risk." Please comment.

Though there have been exceptions, I think that is generally true. I think it is mostly true for two reasons: First, it is a committee process, and committees tend to be less daring and more process-oriented and consensus-seeking. The second reason is that the Pulitzer Prizes are an institution with a reputation to protect; they are, by nature, risk averse. In some part, every prize involves a matter of trust, since you are seeing only the product, not the process.  Journalists with strong reputations are less likely to have cut corners, fabricated, etc.

So, yeah, I think there's that element, and it is a strong one.   There are also occasional leaps into the unknown. Last year's Public Service winner -- Daniel Gilbert of the Bristol (Va.) Herald-Courier was an example.   So was Dave Barry, back in 1988.

I always thought that reincarnation was an intriguing concept even if I didn't believe in it. I did have an Aunt who did belivee in it because - all the souls couldn't fit in heaven. Which was an interesting if completely illogical line of reasoning. But the most interesting fact I ever heard involving reincarnation was that the math of mulitple past human lives just doesn't work because approximately half (by now maybe more than half) of all humans who have ever lived are alive today. There are simply not enough past lives to go around. It is a sweet theory though.

Can't new souls keep getting created?  

I loved Chris Jones' blog entry, and this comes from a journalist who hates awards. I've got several hang-ups when it comes to awards: Too subjective, my work sucks, blah blah blah. But probably the thing I hate the most about them is how some of my co-workers live and die by winning awards. They brag whenever they win an award, even if it's in a category that hardly anyone entered. It's obnoxious, but what's worse is how they deny that they care so much about winning. Chris Jones' honesty was refreshing - I loved that he admitted he cared about winning but understood how nobody else does. I think putting his thoughts out there is great for other journalists, too, because it lets us know we can care about our work and be sad if something we loved isn't nominated - but at the same time, quit expecting everyone else to empathize with you/tell you you're the greatest thing in the world (gag!). So I say good for him, and I have no problem with that entry.

Well put.   See next post. 

As his editor? Sure, publish it. As his father? Friend? Nope. In the end, class wins. Pretending a lack of class is a virtue or a necessity is a bad excuse for bad manners. I'm not saying, don't be disappointed. Of course be disappointed. Wanting the award isn't the problem. Thinking you deserve the award isn't the problem. Loudly proclaiming it is. Whine to your friends. In public, have some class.

But this was clearly the minority view! 

I'm one of the "yes" answers to the Karma question, but I want to put in a caveat. It's not that I think of karma in the sense of reincarnation, or of good karma/bad karma comeing from an entity or from a universal spirit or something. For me, "karma" is another way to think of the adage, "what goes around, comes around." I just believe that when you are a good person and try to do nice things to get along with people and the world - help people, listen, make people laugh, be as honest as you can, and generally not be a sneaky backstabbing s**t, etc - most people will react nicely in return. I'm not a pollyanna, I know the universe isn't fair and often isn't kind. But I do think that if you try to be a decent person, you'll get better treatment overall in return.

I wouldn't really define that as karma.   It's more like a practical application of The Golden Rule. 

In response to a court case which upheld students' rights to wear "I (heart) Boobies" bracelets to raise awareness of breast cancer, this was said: "It is inconceivable that the court did not recognize that the bracelets were meant to titillate," said John E. Freund III, a lawyer for the school district.

Thank you.  

While looking at the niceness poll last week, I was reminded of a joke: "How do you say f* you in Southern?" "Why, bless your heart!"

This reminds me of a great cartoon.   I think it was John Callahan:

On the left was an L.A. street scene, on the right, a NYC street scene.   In each, two people were passing each other in the street.   In LA,  one person was saying "Have a nice day!" but thinking "F--- you."    In NYC, the same person is saying "F--- you" but thinking "Have a nice day!" 

O Gene, Arbiter of Morality, please help me out here. I got married relatively recently. I love my spouse. But here's the thing: I think I've known something was wrong with our relationship for a long time. Spouse is amazing, this isn't about her/him. It's allllll me. And I think I've finally figured it out: I'm gay. I've been identifying as "bi" for a long time, since before getting married, and Spouse knew that. But I think I just can't be married to this person anymore and be who I am. Does this make me a terrible person? The thought of hurting Spouse is almost unbearable to me, but I think s/he'll be better off in a better relationship with someone who is, you know, into the whole "opposite marriage" thing. I realize this is going to make me part of the rumor mill, but I'll just have to live with that. So: Terrible person? What should I do here?

This post seems troll-like, for a number of reasons, but I will give you the benefit of the doubt. 

Fess up and get out.    You are living a lie.   It is not kind to the other person. 

Gene, I'm glad that you decided to tackle the Chris Jones topic. I've actually been so turned off by his attitude over the last month or so that I no longer have any desire to read anything the man has written. First, the Ebert story/NMA award piece. I read it, and thought he seemed a bit unpleasant but that it was fair and totally understandable for him to be able express his feelings about a piece that clearly meant a lot to him, and then I moved on. But he didn't. He kept attacking people who commented on his story, lashing out. (I was particularly grossed out to see him attack at least one commenter on his blog who had a small blog of her own.) And then he seemed confused that the issue was turning into a big deal - not at all recognizing that he alone was the one making it into a big deal. Then, his most recent Tom Scocca dick-measuring contest. Sure, Scocca is needlessly poking someone who apparently can't handle being poked. But Jones's reaction was over the top. And he spent the day attacking people on Twitter who dared to find his reaction unappealing. My opinion is, if you're someone who is constantly getting into Twitter wars, you've lost at life. (Apparently Jones used to get into fights on journalism message boards with Jason Whitlock - jesus, if there's a fight no one deserves to win...) The man may be a brilliant writer. I will never know, because I don't care to read what he has to say. I'm also really glad I don't have to live in his head. Seems like a pretty unhappy place.

He's pretty thin-skinned, but I also think he likes debate.  Contention.   Some people do, some don't.    Sometimes, the Empress of the Style Invitational seeks my thoughts on which entries are best and worst -- thoughts she uses occasionally, and completely ignores occasionally.    I like to elaborate, argue the case, hold my position, goad, tickle, tease, hector, refute, etc.   She doesn't.   She doesn't like conflict.   She is the better person. 

We attended a lengthy and very learned Passover sader last night with my 15 year old daughter. It was the first time we were invited to this home, so we were on our best behavior. Everyone else at the table were adults. After deep and wide-ranging philosophical discussions on Mordecai Kaplan, Rabbi Gamliel and the Sanhedrin, Augustin, Greek philosophy, archaeology, Egyptian culture, biblical prooftexts, etc., the leader announced that he had a great joke that he would never tell at (government) work in mixed company. Of course, the guests and his wife egged him on to tell it. I remained quiet as it was the first time I was invited to their house. He gives in and tells the joke, whichi is about an old Jewish man who can't give his young wife an orgasm. The joke is about as old as the the story of Passover, but I'm sure my 15 year old daughter never heard it. At least until now. What would or should I have done? Say nothing? Object to the joke? Mumble something to my daughter? I will note that the sader leader/joke teller drank grape juice the entire night. What would Gene have done?

To me, 15 is old enough to hear almost any joke.   I'm not sure I know the one of which you speak.   Why don't you tell us, and we can all be the judge. 

Did you see this video? (Possibly NSFW)

Uh.   I don't know what to say except it is memorable. 

Why are these carapaces in camo gear?    Is this the Camo Turtle? 

Is it just me, but the link to the "spirituality poll" does not work, although the others do. This is causing me to lose faith in your polls. I am now a polling agnostic.

Anyone else having this problem?  

I just watched Ricky Gervais' HBO special "Talking Funny," which featured four comedians dissecting what is funny and why. Pretty interesting. One of the things that came up is whether a comedian should act as though (s)he's just like one of the people in the audience, or whether he should act like he's above them (Jerry Seinfeld: "You're the only guy in the room talking. Of course you're above them!") Louis C.K. argued that people relate more to a comedian (and, thus, find him funny) when he's just as pissed off about something as you are. Where do you fall on this?

I take Louis's side in any debate, except over raping Hitler. 

If Chris Jones were an athlete complaining about not winning MVP or some other award, we'd all probably condemn him as a spoiled, selfish millionaire diva. But, yet I think that because he is not famous in the way an athlete is, we see a bit of ourselves in him and can understand his frustration as nearer to own than with the athlete.

I think we're more willing to cut him slack because he is thinking deeply about this subject, and aware of how it might make him look small and bitter.   The athlete comes off as self-aware as a red-eared slider. 

Of course new souls could be created, but it would mean that a whole lot of folks were "new souls" with no prior incarnations, and that people with multiple previous incarnations would be very rare. So it makes retrospective discussion about reincarnation (who was I?) less interesting. (Prospective discussion--who will I be?--is still possible, but is purely theoretical, whereas retrospective discussion presumes to be about what actually happened.)

But there still would be more than a billion of old souls out there, no?  

"Old Souls" is the name of Tom The Butcher's excellent, serious book about a scientist's intriguing efforts to document reincarnation.   Let's see if my gratuitous mention of it here tweaks his Amazon sales  number at all.   

But the previous questioner presupposes that only humans are reincarnated as humans. Eastern religions that believe in reincarnation believe that every living thing can be reincarnated as any other living thing. So that would leave plenty of "souls" to go around. Not that I believe in any of it.

Ah, yes, true.   And if ants or amoeba are reincarnated ... 

OK, so you've written what you (Gene) regard as a hall-of-fame piece for the Magazine. You're all but certain that it will be nominated (Pulitzer, National Magazine Award, whatever) but it's not. Tom the Butcher tells you to immediately write out what you're feeling, for publication. What do you write?

I think my honest answer -- sorry about this, Chris -- is that I write something similar to what he wrote, and then don't publish it.     Not all truths are fit for print.   A good writer/editor self-edits.   

This is not entirely parallel, but I have alluded in the past to an opinion I have that I would never publish, ever.   It is something I feel deeply, and that I feel I am ethically correct about.   But it wouldn't look good, I wouldn't care to constantly defend it, and it would hurt some innocent people.   For all these reasons, no. 

I saw a bumper sticker today: "I'll give your president the same respect you gave mine." It immediately rankled me, although I can't articulate all the reasons (I blame extreme sleep deprivation due to baby's chronic ear infections). One of my first reactions was that while I did not *vote* for W. nor did I agree with most of his positions and policies, I allow that he was my president, even when I was living in Canada for most of his second term. But I think what I'm having trouble teasing out is the sense that this attempts to create a false equivalence. Can you help me on this or should I just cop to knee-jerk liberalism?

Cop to knee-jerk liberalism. 

I didn't respect Bush at all in precisely the way some people don't respect Obama.

Hey, for next week's update, I am going to put up an Obama Instapoll.     I think it's time for a liberal gut-check.   I also have a Birther question to ask.   


It's 40 days and nights until the Hunt. Nary a word except date and place. No promos online, not even anything from the Tropichunt guy. So give us some teasers, something to anticipate. Or dread.

We are taking some chances this year.   Some major format changes that we've never before tried.   

It's shaping up as a particularly good Hunt,  I think, with opportunity for mayhem. 

Gene: After 9.5 years of life, why would my dog all of a sudden start being afraid of thunderstorms?

This has happened to Mattingly, too!  I don't know. 

Usually, it's the other way.   As the dog's senses dull, the storms bother her less.   That was what happened to Harry. 

A certain fraternity at Yale came up with an incredibly tasteless rush "prank." The pledges stood in front of a campus Women's Center and chanted "No means yes, yes means [sex Inder Bhat] ." This is frightening and upsetting and depressing for so many reasons, but that is not my question. Someone suggested had the pledges chanted "No means NO, yes means [sex InderBhat] " the entire stunt would have been funny and socially acceptable. Your thoughts?

It would have made it marginally better, I think, and almost okay.   Here is the thing:  If I'm reading it correctly, this was idiocy, but it was primarily aimed at embarrassing the pledges, I think, and not intimidating the women.   Having the pledges  say something grotesquely wrong and stupid to people who would look at them like weasels.  

Given that fact, if it eliminated the no-yes rape scenario, it becomes a little less ojectionable, so a bit funny, maybe.    Still jerky.    

Gene, I noticed that you called Roger Ebert's New Yorker caption "lame." Recently, I was SCOLDED on Facebook by someone for calling something "lame." I was shocked that anyone would get offended by this word, since no one uses it to mean "a handicapped person," but apparently some people still do. I don't really have much else to say about this, other than, "isn't that ridiculous?" Maybe you'll have something witty to add.

Yes, because "lame" doesn't seem to conjure a physical disability at all.  Plus, we don't really use that word in connection with physical disability.   We say handicapped or whatnot.   To be offended, you have to really be lookin g to be offended. 

Hi Gene - I just finished the Spirituality poll, and noticed that about 40% of respondents chose the "no deity whatsoever" option (myself included). Even allowing for a skew amongst your readers, I was a little surprised to see that many fellow travelers (on the road to either nowhere or perdition) because in the real world, unprotected by anonymity, there just doesn't seem to be that many atheists. Do you think it's because were cowered by the religious majority? Or because we simply don't care enough to talk about it?

I think this is a self-selecting audience, and I think my occasional  diatribes about how I respect religion even though only atheism makes any sense at all probably skews the population here, at least somewhat.  

karma (at least in my western pesudo-philosophical understanding of it) plays into a few persistent cognitive biases that humans are especially prone to. 1. Our brains like patterns, so we see them in the world around us, even if they're not really there. This came up last chat: people believe their dreams predict the future, because we want there to be a logical relationship between our dreams and our lives, so we selectively pay attention to the dreams that support that relationship. 2. We like balance. For example, faced with two sets of conflicting facts, we tend to believe that the truth is somewhere in the middle of them. (Politicians realize this and use it to their advantage, sometimes saying utterly false things, knowing that they will eventually be proven wrong, but realizing that they can plant doubt in people's minds in the mean time.) So karma, the idea that the good in your life balances out the evil, is innately appealing.

I think this is a very smart observation. 

Regarding your update about women removing shirts, "flibbiting of the breasts" is a perfect descriptor of what happens when we peel shirts off upside down. And yes, it's uncomfortable. Also, it can cause the bottom of the bra to hitch and pull up, getting caught halfway, which is *extremely* uncomfortable. Makeup and hair are also factors. If you don't want to muss them or get makeup on the shirt, you have to be careful how you remove the shirt. That said, I frequently whip my shirt off man-style when I'm not wearing makeup, the shirt is going straight into the laundry, or I want my husband to get whiplash.

I would say one tenth of the hundreds of questions I am looking at are on this subject, and all from women. 

Two missionaries are captured by a savage tribe, and brought before the chieftess, 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 pleasured and teased for the next 12 hours by every female member of the tribe, until he loses consciousness from an overwhelmingly powerful orgasm. The second missionary, who has witnessed all this, is then given the same choice. "Roo-roo!" he blurts. "Very well," the chieftess declares. "But first, a little death."

Very good.  You brought it home.  Yes, funny.    

Interesting - I read the initial post and didn't mind at all. He lost. That sucks. He's totally honest about it. I answered the poll. Then I read his follow-up post and I now hate him. I hate that he's like, you can't be a good writer unless you step on your colleague's heads. Because that's a lie.


That's not really what he is saying in that second post, though.   He is saying that he is a competitive SOB, and that, in this business, that is an important tool.   It is. 

Not sure if I'm a true believer, but I like the idea that our souls are linked with other souls, and we keep coming back thru different lives together. It's a nice way to explain that instant connection and chemistry that sometimes people have with each other. My partner sometimes dreams that she is running on all fours like a dog. We think she must have been one in a past life. And I think our dog is in love with her, so maybe they were together in a past life too.

Gina and I once consulted a psychic who decided we knew each other in a prior life.   Gina was totally convinced.   

If you want to believe, you will. 

I've "known" you for years and only just now read your Great Zucchini. Do you know how he's doing?

Doing great.   Seems happy, has a lot of work.   His worry that the story would destroy him was unfounded.   

It continues to surprise me that you're an atheist, because I've always felt the guiding principle in your writing is to present the facts, as well as science can prove them. And the fact is neither God's existence nor the absence of it can be proved. The only logical position to take is agnosticism. Presently, we don't know if God exists.

There is a deductive method.   See next post. 

I don't think your responses left enough room for the uncertainty that most of us should feel. A logical response at this point in human history is to look back upon the profound misapprehension most of humanity have had about the nature of life and the universe, and to conclude that in all likelihood there's vastly more that we don't yet understand. To have utter certainty in either (1) the proscribed religions or in (2) the absolute randomness of matter is assuredly wrong. Almost guaranteed to be. One of your question / responses sets effectively proves this -- the one about visions of the future. If you have ACTUALLY experienced this, or have been close to someone who has, you would never fully disregard the phenomenon. It's sheer arrogance to do so. And it's wrong to boot. I don't know what it is or what it means, but to disregard it is foolish. Uncertainty can be a guiding light. It should have guided your response options a bit more...

Yours is a fine and thoughtful answer, wrong though it may be.    Here's why it is wrong:  It is true that we don't know squat.   We have learned a lot of pre-squat stuff though, over the millennia, building blocks of that final squat, and they all point in the same direction:  Science replaces mysticism and spirituality.   

One of my favorite chat intros discussed this.   I link to it here.   Make sure you reference the chart.  

I thought that the Snyder piece read like it was written by a 4th grader.

Oh, I disagree.   I think it was very crafty.     I think a brilliant image-manager wrote that.    And that basically it was published over much tooth gnashing by Snyder.   Because it was conciliatory, a bit. 

Gene, I know you're not a lawyer. But. Last week a guy blocked the doors of the Metro car I was trying to leave. I asked him politiely to move, then asked again. Then I walked around him. As I moved past, he said something insulting (can't remember what) and took a swipe at me. No one saw this. I'm embarrassed to say I turned around, raised my arm like a New Yorker, and said something like "What's your problem!" or "What the hell!" He lowered his head -- I could see the top of his head and all the way down his back -- and rammed me in the ribs. I landed on my skull and elbow in the middle of the platform. A hospital put stitches in my head (concussion, lots of blood), did an MRI and x-rays. Two neutral witnesses told the cops I threatened the man first by raising my arm and shouting. I never touched him. If it matters, I'm female and will have a raft of medical bills. The cops say if I make a complaint, they will have to charge both of us with second degree assault. I'm not litigious and am thinking small claims court for the medical bills. Any thoughts? Thanks....

Good grief.   If I were you, I'd see a lawyer.   Sounds like that guy might have a history, and that history will favor you.

I am being a little slow here.    Having a pet crisis I have to deal with intermittently.     Nothing fatal or awful.   

There is a headline in today's Philadelphia Inquirer letting readers know that "Frat Didn't Abuse Camel". I feel so much better.

I read this as "Fart didn't abuse camel."  It seemed to make even less sense. 


I wonder if frat-fart intentional misprints are common in colleges.        "Hey, fart boy."  

Where is the poll? Is the link hidden in the intro?

The poll is linked above the intro, no?     I can't see the page. 

Have you ever noted (with well-founded glee) that your favorite chat topics are the things that the faux genteel were warned to avoid as discussion starters: politics, sex and religion?

You forgot bodily functions.   We are big on bodily functions.   

"I would say one tenth of the hundreds of questions I am looking at are on this subject, and all from women." Does it make you feel you've somehow done something right in life that so many women are willing to provide you details of how they take their clothes off?

Sadly, no.   There is inherent interest in sharing this, women to women.   It's the VPL phemenon, guys:  It's not ABOUT us. 

During the two year span when our dog's hearing was going he became terrified of storms. Doggie Xanax was no help. After he became deaf he never noticed them again. So I hate to say it, but the chatter's dog is possibly losing his hearing.

But why would that TRIGGER fear? 

Harry used to go into the bathtub and drool.    

Are you becoming a Caps fan?

I just can't get interested in hockey.   It is supposedly a Ballet Masquerading as a Brawl, but it just seems like a brawl to me.   Too much sprawling; too much seems to happen by accident in a scrum. 

I just got back from a doctor appointment and founf out that I need another lumpectomy. Make me laugh.

"Lumpectomy" is a really funny word?    

It is.      

Another one is opisthotonos, which is very, very bad.  Much worse than a lumpectomy.    It describes what happenes in the end stages of tetanus, when your body bends backward like a bow, heels to head.   Then you die. 

You are just getting a lump removed.  You will be fine, kid.    

I realize this defeats the purpose about what you won't discuss, but you've covered bathroom habits, 'womens gardening' (kind of), various illnesses, using bumpers to park, religion, politics, airplane seats and the assholes who recline in them, loss of pets, and death of children in cars. I can't imagine a topic that you consider too taboo - so without giving us the opinion you have, can you give us a topic (or at least a general direction?)

I think I have said this before: It is an offshoot of the abortion issue, and that's as far as I go.  

Do you consider writing something for his own blog to be the same as writing something for publication? I think that the blog format allows for more leeway in writing something that you wouldn't normally publish. By its very nature, it is supposed to be more personal, about your own thoughts and opinions, as opposed to an article or column. I doubt he would have written what he did in an article for publication, but for his own blog, that's how he was feeling at the moment, and I don't see anything wrong with it. We all feel that way sometimes. I agree that the ensuing contentiousness with commenters is a bit distasteful, but I thought the original post was fine.

Well, no.    It will initially be read by a small, selected crowd, but the minute it starts going horizontal, your audience can get astronomically larger AND the context can become muddied, which is what happened, just a bit, to Scott Adams.  

And I promised to discuss him, and I will, in the next update.    Where I hope to see you all.   Thanks much.   We're done for the day.  

Good afternoon, update readers.


I spent Sunday the way I typically do.  I watched 60 Minutes, wincing yet again at what a tiresome, useless, boring old fart Andy Rooney is; then I went to bed promptly at 9:30, like the tiresome, useless, boring old fart that I am. 


That is why, unlike you, I learned about the death of Osama bin Laden the old fashioned way:  At 7 a.m. Monday morning I plucked the Washington Post from the front yard, poured myself a cup of joe, sat in a comfy chair, unsleeved the paper, snapped it open, and gasped


I can’t tell you how good it felt – not just the news, which was indeed good -- but the method of delivery.   Yeah, this is weepy nostalgia, but it is righteous weepy nostalgia about an experience I’d almost forgotten and will soon lose forever:  A huge story that arrives on the doorstep as a complete surprise the morning after -- as full-blown news, in a package that hollers its importance, told with a blast of authority, assembled by people more expert than I, and only after time for reflection.  It seemed quick but unhurried – a story well told, deftly contextualized and prioritized.   It literally felt big; the headlines and the layout made it seem etched in stone.  This is a journalistic packaging skill as old as the start of the last century -- see here, here, here and here -- and one that has proven impossible to replicate on a computer screen.   Everything whispers now.


Online, of course, we don’t get news the way I did yesterday.  Now, we tend to learn things incrementally, the way newspaper wire editors used to:  by trickle of fact.  First, an alert, then a headline, then a story assembles itself piecemeal.  Today, I learn about some news by first reading someone’s shrill opinion about it on Twitter, and then having to catch up on the facts on my own, until eventually the whole thing emerges.


Was the old system...better?   Nah.   It was late.   It was limited in its breadth by the unfortunate finiteness of the commodity called “paper.”   All I’m saying is, we should pause a moment to miss it.  In the main, cars are better transportation than horses were.   But horses were...horses.   They had names and personalities, and sometimes they loved you and sometimes you loved them back, and we lost a little something when we put them out to pasture.

Okay, so, bin Laden’s dead, and on this, the second day I have a few observations:


There were some wonderful efforts at Internet memes, but only one stands out above the rest.   Here it is.   It will only take five seconds.

When you now know what Obama knew at the time of the White House Correspondent’s Dinner, his deft dismantling of Donald Trump becomes so much richer.   I am talking in particular of the minute-long riff he goes into about Trump’s leadership, as evidence by his swift decision-making in Celebrity Apprentice.  It begins here around the 10:30 mark. 


It’s best to watch it, but here’s a transcript.  He's talking to Trump, in the audience:


All kidding aside, obviously, we all know about your credentials and breadth of experience. (Laughter.) For example -- no, seriously, just recently, in an episode of Celebrity Apprentice -- (laughter) -- at the steakhouse, the men's cooking team cooking did not impress the judges from Omaha Steaks. And there was a lot of blame to go around. But you, Mr. Trump, recognized that the real problem was a lack of leadership. And so ultimately, you didn't blame Lil' Jon or Meatloaf. (Laughter.) You fired Gary Busey. (Laughter.) And these are the kind of decisions that would keep me up at night. (Laughter.)  Well handled, sir.  Well handled.


The rumor is that bin Laden prepared a video to be released after his death, exhorting his followers to continue waging Jihad, and whatnot.   Had I been bin Laden, I would have taken the time to make a few dozen videos, each claiming that they got the wrong man.


Think about it. Bin Laden knew how he’d be killed:  A raid on that compound.   So each video would contain slightly differing details of that raid, and his accomplices would release only the one closest to the actual facts.  Bin Laden would have said they’d killed his double; that he was disappearing into hiding for a while to plan further righteous attacks etc. In this  conspiracy-thirsty world, he would live forever. A Demonic Elvis.


Haha, bin Laden, think about that lost opportunity as you are slowly disemboweled on a spit over the Lake of Flames beside the Leprous Sulfur Pit of the Damned.

I do have one final thought.  Yes, as I have said, I believe that Obama will be easily  reelected.   But I want to caution all you liberals out there: Don’t get smug. (Quipster Andy Borowitz yesterday tweeted: "Dems, Repubs agree to cancel 2012 Election.") This is a true story from not that long ago.

The year was 1991.  George H. W. Bush had just completed America’s fastest, cleanest, spiffiest war, having hornswoggled Saddam Hussein, and his approval rating was 89 percent.   His reelection seemed certain. 


At the time, I was the editor of the Sunday Style section.  Joel Achenbach  came to me with a great idea:  He would write two stories, which I would yoke together on the Sunday Style front under the headline “What If….?”


The first story would be a serious look at how Washington would change if Democrats won the White House in 1992:  Who would be in, who would be out, etc.  The second story would be a speculation piece on what would happen if aliens landed on the National Mall.


I was talked out of this idea by Mary Hadar, the Style editor .  Had she not done so, those headlines would have gone down in history side by side with this one.

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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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