Chatological Humor: Monthly with Moron

Mar 27, 2012

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.

Take today's polls:
- Sex poll
- Politics poll (I lean conservative | I lean liberal)

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.

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.

Good afternoon!

We begin today with important breaking news from the world of humor.   You might remember this column from last year, in which I reported the breathtaking achievement of my good friend Rachel Manteuffel, who returned from work to find that she had not only locked her keys in the car, but also left her engine running.   I placed this at the top of the very pantheon of the involuntary comedic art of nincompoopery.  (The previous champ had been my friend Karl, who once somehow managed to slam his own head in a car door.) 

Well, I have invited Rachel into the chat introduction today.   Say hello to the nice people, Rachel.

Rachel:  Hi.
Me: Please tell everyone what you did Saturday night.   
Rachel:  It.  Again.  
Me: Explain, please.
Rachel:  I was going to see a show, and was running late.   So I parked in the Whole Foods parking lot...
Me: Isn't that for their customers only?
Rachel: I was going to test that theory. 
Me: I see. 
Rachel:  Anyway, when I got out of the theater, there was my car, running, with the keys locked in it.   In my defense, I think I should get credit for the many, MANY times I park without locking my keys in my car with the engine running. 
Me:  Noted.   So.  I bet you had a spare set of keys in your pocketbook!
Me:  Sorry. That was disingenuous. 
Rachel:  My father had to bring my spare from 40 miles away. 
Me:  Was he angry?
Rachel:  Not really!  We are Manteuffels. This is how we roll.  He once reported his car stolen because he forgot where he parked it.    Anyway, by that time the Whole Foods lot was closed, so I had to beg a guard for access to my car.
Me:  Was he angry?
Rachel:  Not really.  Guards usually aren't, with me, in situations like this.  I think it's the equivalent of being kind to a dumb animal.  


More Breaking Humor!

As many of you are aware, my favorite possession in the whole world is this 18 inch long fossilized walrus penis bone that I bought from an Eskimo in Alaska.  

Like Karl and his head, it may have just been dethroned by something more wonderfully awful.       A few weeks ago, I got an urgent communique from The Empress of the Style Invitational, who found for sale on Ebay an amazing object that she was going to buy as a prize.   Unwisely, she sent me the link.    I instantly bought it.     

Below is a 360-degree look at my spiffy, mint-condition  Republican Coffee Mug.   Do you all think this was manufactured with deliberate irony or not?   (I have researched the mug, and have the actual answer.)


Gene Weingarten Mug, view 1


Gene Weingarten Mug, view 2


Gene Weingarten Mug, view 3


Gene Weingarten Mug, view 4

More Breaking Humor!

A few weeks ago, Garry Trudeau had a brilliant week of Doonesburys lampooning Texas' appalling new abortion-shaming law.    This led to an unprecedented wave of editorial cowardice, as literally dozens of newspaper editors around the country lifted the whole week of strips.      As soon as this started, I got an email from Horace LaBadie, the official historian of "Barney & Clyde," suggesting that we announce our solidarity with Trudeau in a strip, in a certain way.   We did.   It appeared yesterday. 

When it was drawn, I emailed a courtesy copy to Trudeau.  He liked it, and particularly liked out brilliant, subtle additional historical homage to one of the all-time great cartoonists.    I accepted the compliment with characteristic modesty and grace, though, as it happens, this added subtly brilliant touch was news to me.  

It turns out that whenever the great Walk Kelly produced a "Pogo" strip  likely to offend and constern conservative newspaper editors, he would offer them a benign, apolotical, weak substitute strip.  He derisively called this lame substitutes his  .... "bunny strips."

Cheney's change of heart requires a celebratory poem:

Lefties will snicker

At Cheney's new ticker

(The joke's that the old one

Was made out of stone.)


Me -- I hope the donor

Was a lib'ral stoner

So now we'll see Cheney

Begin to atone.

if you haven't already....

Please take the polls.  

- Sex poll
- Politics poll (I lean conservative | I lean liberal)

I am going to be discussing it right quick.     The tawdry story of the editorial page editor has what I consider a very un-tawdry epilogue.  

With a note of remarkable grace, Caldwell's widow, Lora Cuykendall, put this note on her Facebook page: 

    "To all of our friends and family:

    "I fear today's news about the circumstances of Bob's death may have caused you more sadness. I apologize on his behalf. Bob was a kind, loving and fair man. He would have understood why The Oregonian needed to print the story and he also would have regretted the anguish that it caused to those he loves — both outside and inside of the newspaper. We love him unconditionally. Thanks to all of you for your loving support."

Okay, that's it for the intro.

Chat begins at noon.    Right here. 

Or greatest name ever, period, full stop? Link

My God!  My God!   The greatest name in the history of the world.   I ust got this before chat time:  Can someone with skills check and verify that there is actually a scientist out there named "Taco B.M. Monster"?

I respect what Trudeau did, but I hardly think pulling an abortion series in comic form, which includes the line "by the power vested in me by the GOP base, I thee rape" is an act of cowardice. It sounds like an act of intelligence considering Doonsbury often appears on the same page as Family Circus and Peanuts.

I disagree.   The comics page has never been exclusively for children.    It has always had politics and serious discussion.   From before the days of Walt Kelly.  

You know, kids are people, too.   They can learn things from the comics page.   If you are old enough to read comics, you are old enough to have rape explained to you in a way that is consistent with good pareenting. 

Okay, the poll

There is a saleswoman in a store I often frequent who is my best source on what the right is saying and thinking.  I like her, and enjoy talking to her.  She's smart.  But we are about as far apart politically as two people can be; she appears to be a listener and maybe a participant for righty talk radio, and I can always count on her to argue the party line.  

So it was from this lady, for example, that I first learned, years ago, that the right's response to Obama's obvious literacy and oratorical skills is the allegation that he's nearly illiterate without his Teleprompter.    This quickly became the mantra of the right, as silly and hollow and wrong as it is.

And so it was from this saleswoman that I learned, two weeks ago, that Rush Limbaugh was only doing what Bill Maher had already done to Sarah Palin.   (She actually contended that Limbaugh was completely in the right because Sandra Fluke should not have talked openly about her sex life in a public forum -- that was actually my first clue that Rush had lied about that on the air; Fluke of course  never said anything about her own sex life.)

I believe that what Maher has done to Palin is utterly unlike the vile attack that Limbaugh launched on an innocent citizen.   Not even remotely comparable.  Palin (and Bachmann), like any politicians, are ripe and legitimate targets for satire and parody, and able to fight back, with their own very public forums.    Is it NASTY to call them names?  Sure.  But it is well within the bounds of standup comedy, which is what Maher was clearly doing.  His show is labeled     as comedy, and the context was clearly satirical and exaggerated.  I don't think anyone believes that he was seriously suggesting that Palin was in favor of invading Tsunami.   Limbaugh's tirade, though partly funny, was presented as serious political commentary; in that realm, what he did to an ordinary citizen was a vicious lie.  Pure calumny.   

It should be noted that Maher has also said -- not, apparently, on his show, but in live standup gigs -- that the only appropriate descriptive term for Palin is [the c-word].    I don't think there's video of that, and I wasn't aware of it when I created the poll.   It does raise the stakes a bit in terms of distastefulness, so if you would have answered differently in the poll had you known that ... my bad.    

I would have answered differently only in one sense, but it's worth discussing.  

I was prepared to take the position that there was nothing misogynistic in Maher calling Palin a "dumb twat," on the grounds that it is exactly like calling a guy you don't like a "dick."   It's a word exclusively used for men (Jon Stewart called Tucker Carlson this on the air), and it is describing a subset of men, a certain type of man -- not men in general.  The presumption is that since some men are that, most men are not.   Same with twat, and ladies.  I think.   The word, basically, to me, is the same as "bimbo," except that it is metonymous, childishly defining this type of woman by her genitalia.  Same as "dick." 

Ideally, this would also apply to the c-word, but I can't make that argument.    For reasons I don't understand but fully accept, the c-word is poison, and everyone knows it, and all women react badly to it in any context,  so the comic who is using it is attempting to offend -- and has the knowledge he will offend -- people other than the one he is talking about.     So, yeah.   I have to say that's misogynistic.  



Also --

Regarding last month's discussion of the morals / ethics involved in aborting fetuses with genetic defects,  I got a fascinating email by a woman who asks to remain anonymous.  The point she raises here is, in my opinion, logically compelling: 

The bit about women drinking while pregnant is EXACTLY why I'm pro-choice.  If we can force a woman to carry a pregnancy against her will, then it's entirely reasonable to force her to otherwise care for the child while pregnant.  If the fetus is a person from day one, you can't harm it in any way, or that's child abuse/neglect/assault/murder.  Right?  Meaning, if she must give up her body to gestate, she must give up her body to gestate, so why CAN'T we forbid her to drink?  Or to smoke?  Take migraine medications?  Or ibuprofen?  What about caffeine, excessive physical labor, or stress?  Raw eggs?  Sushi?  Certain cheeses?  Cold sandwich meat?  Changing the cat's litterbox?  These are all dangerous and/or can cause miscarriage.  If she has an incompetent cervix, can we force her to have a cerclage?  Can we make her take prenatal vitamins?  Maybe only if her diet is inadequate?  At what point is she not a person, and just a vessel for the fetus?

If abortion is murder, then smoking is child abuse.

Look, I agree that pregnant woman shouldn't drink, though I'm not sure at what point you can prosecute.  In a way, it makes sense that you can prosecute a woman for causing damage to her child through alcohol abuse (or whatever) only if abortion is legal.  You can then make the argument: You decided that this would become a person one day, when you elected NOT to terminate, so you're responsible for not hurting that thing that's going to be a person.  After birth, when it's a child that has suffered harm, then you can prosecute whoever caused that harm.

I say all this as a woman who's 5 months pregnant with a (second) very wanted child.  Having my first child just made me MORE pro-choice.  My husband and I were ready and trying for a baby, financially stable, committed, excited, with a great support network.  And yet, it was still really freaking hard.  Pregnancy and having a baby are the hardest things I've ever done, in every way, and I can't imagine forcing that on someone who didn't want it.

Gene, do you find any similarities between Rachel's absent-mindedness and that of those unfortunate parents who leave their children in hot cars? You've written so many words on that topic I'm curious if this is lost on you or if you are truly surprised that she can do this. Repeatedly. On the spectrum of psychology (is this the right ology?), there has to be a relationship. At least in Rachel's case, nobody gets hurt, arrested, accused of murder, etc. It makes me wonder even more how many of us out there can only point to serendipity in keeping us from something tragic happening to us...

Here's the thing, and it is counterintuitive:

There is not a direct correlation between absentmindedness and leaving a baby to die in the car.    I know.   Many of the parents who have done this have been anal retentives, masters of detail.    The common factor is stress, and interruption of normal routine.    

Rachel, I am guessing, would not be particularly susceptible to the baby thing:  She's an actor; she accommodates stress really well.   

I have a good friend who once reported her car stolen (it turned out that it had been towed). She never called the cops back to tell them that it was found, so several weeks later she was pulled over for driving a stolen car. Oh, and at this point her license was also suspended, for some similarly dumb reason. She's very lucky she didn't get arrested. I also used to drive a car that would let you take the key out without the car being in park, even though it had an automatic transmission. I made this mistake twice. The second time, my car rolled down a gentle slope and hit another car, which was a huge headache. I actually heard people in the store talking about how a car in the parking lot had been hit, and thought to myself "Can't be my car - I parked over on top of that hill!"

I was driving my daughter's car last week and reached down, at a red light, to adjust the seat backwards (Molly is tiny, and drives close to the steering wheel.    As soon as I hit the latch release, the seat rocketed  backwards as though it were on a greased skid.  

Problem:   I was in first gear with the clutch depressed.   When I shot backward, my foot came off the clutch.  Car rocketed forward.     A comical scene that could have been deadly. 

I just thought you should know that the Diane Rehm show is, right now, wrapping up an hour long discussion of dignity. I think this chat should counterbalance that nicely...

In choosing three adjectives that least describe me -- this is an interesting exercise, by the way -- "dignified" was in the top five.   It lost out to "fastidious."

Did you see the 60 Minutes piece on prosopagnosia? Apparently there is an opposing, but related syndrome where people are "super-recognizers," able to place a face that they have seen only once, at multiple years' remove. The woman with this syndrome that they interviewed remarked how she had to learn to change her behavior because of the odd reactions she would get when she mentioned to someone that they had indeed met, several years earlier, at a party. Anyway, somewhere there exists an alternate-Gene, who recognizes everyone, but who cannot write a double-dactyl to save his life.

I saw it.  Very interesting.  The danger is that people think you are a stalker: You are going out of your way to remember and mention some meaningless encounter from a long time before.  It seems ... creepy. 

I like you.


My father was an antiques dealer. Although we were not wealthy, our home was littered with quite valuable and well loved pieces of furniture. His very favorite possession? The walrus penis a friend had brought back from Alaska.

They're called oosiks.   They are great.    There's a fine ode out there to the oosik: A long poem.   If you find it and send it in, I'll post it.   

Do you keep writing these sorts of stories to taunt them or to spite your readers?

Whenever I write one, I get about an equal number of emails saying they are the reader's favorite and least favorite.   I thought Sunday's had one of the luckiest calls I've made, to the Bambu lady. 

On the editor poll question

Well, here's the thing:  I feel bad for everyone involved.  I found Ms. Glanville's resignation letter poignant.

But I think she had to go, or at least be seriously reprimanded .   She deliberately caused false information to appear in her newspaper, which is about as felonious as a journalistic crime can be ... short of accepting a bribe.  

I actually think that even if she hadn't taken a direct hand in the lie, she was obliged to warn the paper that they were printing a falsehood, though the penalty for this needn't be that severe -- under those circumstances, she had conflicting obligations as a journalist and as a friend.

I actually view this whole thing more seriously than some of my colleagues.    I believe, for example, that the paper was obliged to run the details of his death even if they hadn't had a lie to correct.  My thinking is that they needed to do this simply to avoid being charged with a coverup if any competing publication got hold of it.

But a senior editor at The Post disagrees with that.  I put the question to him:  Had this happened to the editor of the Post's editorial page, would you have felt obliged to have the Post report the tawdry details?  He said:

In general, if there's not a compelling public interest in the matter -- if the editor weren't a public figure or a hypocrite for having crusaded against prostitution -- I suppose I might opt to preserve the man's dignity and go with the minimalist rendition."

I said I thought the editor of the Post's editorial page might be a public figure, per se.  He said:

"You could argue he, or anyone in media, is, and many people would say that. But we in journalism aren't charged with managing the public purse, we don't send kids off to war, we don't set safety standards for food and vehicles. We kvetch. Sure, we try to be transparent and open, and we assiduously avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. But we don't necessarily disclose our investments or where our family members work or answer questions from voters. So, I guess I'm fine with preserving his dignity, unless the circumstances are so tabloid that every other publication or TV station in town was going to go big with it. In which case I'd adjust my view."

Interesting, no?   More human and decent than I was prepared to be!   

Some time in the last couple of years, you promised a new FAQ, and asked for suggestions. I wrote one - an entire one, roughly the same length as the previous one. For weeks I checked the site regularly to see if you had replaced it, and whether you had chosen even one of my question-and-answers. Nothing. Nada. Nil. I don't believe you will have them ready for next week. Yes, you can take this as a challenge.

Ah, yes.  The new FAQ is definitely going to point out that one recurrent "theme" of Chatological Humor is continually reneging on promises to modernize the FAQ.   The last promise was just last week. 

This will get done.  I PROMISE. 

(Please resend me your proposed FAQ.  I have no recollection of it.) 

Once. About 15 years ago. Outside a movie theater in Woodinville WA. Called the rental company from a phone booth, who called GM, who called a locksmith, all in the same conference call. Locksmith came, cut a key, and I've carried a spare ever since.

Many years ago, I flew to Chicago to interview a man who was about to die.  I was hurried, and upset.   He was a friend of mine.   Got a rental at the airport, drove toward his house, realized I needed to buy tapes for my recorder.  Parked in big shopping center, ran in, came out and realized I had no memory of where I had parked nor what kind of car -- color, make -- I had rented.  The key didn't say.   I spent a half hour looking into every car to see if my stuff was there. 

Antidepressants and risk of first-time hospitalization for myocardial infarction: A population-based case-control study - another study by Taco B.M. Monster, in the American Journal of Medicine.

This is so exciting. 

But I really despise Rush. Maher just irritates me. More free speech to all of them. But I do not have to watch.

Maher is a really smart guy and I totally agree with him politically.   But he is oddly off as a comic.   Anyone else notice this?   You see his stress, somehow.    

Although I lean more conservative, I despise guns. When I say that I'd love for only police and military to be allowed them, my husband thinks it's ridiculous. He claims that then only criminals would have them and the general populace would be unable to defend themselves. What do you think?

I think we should look at the murder rate in England, where allegedly only cops and criminals have guns.  

I love the gun people who think our problem is that we don't have ENOUGH guns.   They love to postulate these great shootout scenes, where everyone gets the drop on everyone else, etc. 

To continue a discussion from August 2011, if this hasn't been settled already: I stumbled across this picture of a sign posted in Union Station about the "modesty panels" added to the statues: Link  (scroll down past the first few pictures)

So, as it happens, I was sitting next to a huge stone penis when the earthquake hit and I thought I would die.   How disturbing. 

It is Team Rachel, not Rachael. Thanks, Another Rachel

There is only one acceptable spelling of Rachel.  Also of Caitlin.   Also of Molly.   

What makes Maher's comments misogynistic is that he uses offensive words that he seems to think are applicable to all women. Consider the women involved in the Gilligan's Island comment: Bachmann, Palin, Ginger, Mary Ann. Four very different women. And yet he chooses to apply the same word to all of them. The only thing they have in common, really, is that they are women. Ergo, his language leads to the conclusion that he thinks all women are bimbos. He could have gotten the same laughs if he'd said "women" instead of "bimbos."

I'm not sure I agree with this.   Mary Ann and Ginger were simpletons.   I know, Mary Ann wasn't supposed to be, but she was a 1960s stereotypical "nice" sitcom female character -- if you watch reruns, you'll see she was a moron, too.  Even Mrs. Howell was a moron.     I think Maher was using "bimbo" to mean "bimbo."   

Since you are digging into journalism ethics in today's poll, can we talk about this story?  This is another case when personal and professional roles are blurred. As a reporter, she's covering a story; as a mom, she cares about her children. When she complains to the principal, is she using her position to intimidate the principal? Is the principal overreacting, or protecting the school? Were the student reporters justified in concluding that her return to the story meant that she was again fair game? What responsibility do the reporters have to the bullied children? I don't think anyone is covering themselves in glory here. What do you think?

I think for someone in the news biz, she goofed up.    Her worry that this new piece "might" stir up some new harassment isn't justified enough to put pressure on the school to squelch free expression.     Easy for me to say, from a safe distance, but I don't think I would have done it. 

Regarding the events surrounding the Oregonian editor's death, it was necessary for the paper to print the details because their editorial page had previously printed numerous anti-prostitution pieces and his hypocrisy is the most disturbing issue in this case.

I don't believe that's the case.   What I read said that the paper had taken anti-prostitution stances, but they were mild and obvious.  

I'd say that editors and reporters have an obligation to tell the truth, one of the most important obligations they have as newspaper employees. If they didn't want to report that the editor was found dead with a prostitute, they could have chosen not to report the whole story. They shouldn't lie - it goes to credibility - if they lie about this, what else are they lying about to protect someone? I do think, however, that the punishment may have been excessive. Given that the editor who lied was a close friend and may have been emotionally distraught, I could see a significant suspension without pay as a fair punishment, with the caveat that this is a one-time reprieve. Another lie and she's gone.

I agree with your prescription for punishment, but not with the first part, necessarily.    You can report the truth -- heart attack -- without the tawdry details.  I suspect papers do this all the time.   

A cop once told me that many heart attacks happen to men alone  in hotel rooms, and involve porn.     Doesn't have to be in the obit, you know? 

Thought you might enjoy this, a 1947 article on the benefits of North Carolina's forced sterilization law ("Better Human Beings Tomorrow"):  Gotta love an unbiased medical statement like "For every one man or woman who has been sterilized, there are 40 others who can continue to pour defective genes into the state's bloodstream to pollute and degrade future generations."

This is excellent!  

Like Communism, eugenics seems like a pretty good idea, until it has to be administered by humans upon humans.   

I actually wonder what the world would be like if in the last 200 years, all countries had rigorous programs to somehow make sure that smart people reproduce plentifully, and dumb people don't?   Let's say humanely organized, entirely through financial incentives and disincentives?   

Would the world be better, or worse?  

Gene, your poll on ethics in journalism reminded me of something that I've wanted to ask you. You have frequently commented on the current state of newspapers in this country and how changes in technology and customer preferences, as well as the increased focus on the newspaper publisher's bottom line, have affected the reporting of the news. You have lamented how the reduced number of copy editors have negatively affected the quality of work by reporters/columnists and have noted that investigative journalism has been reduced (or eliminated altogether) in certain parts of the country. What would you say to young people who are looking to start a career in journalism? Looking back at your career and what you've seen happen to the world of reporting and commenting on the news, would you recommend a career in journalism to them? I’m not here to blame the rise of web-based news (either from traditional news outlets or people like Drudge, Andrew Breitbart, and Arianna Huffington) which is largely a compilation of news stories created by others without paying for them and which often blurs the lines between reporting and commentary. After all, the actions of old-school journalists like Dan Rather, Mike Barnicle, Jayson Blair, and even the Post’s own Sari Horwitz haven’t done much to improve the perception of journalists in the public eye. Do you think that Journalism (with a capital J) has been negatively affected by these changes? And, do you think that your career as a journalist (in all its forms) has been negatively affected by what's happened to newspapers and what now passes as journalism in today's society?

I think journalism is at an awkward place right now, trying to define what it is to be and how it will get there.   I think it is going to get better and more rewarding once that happens. 

Just for the record: I don't think Sari Horwitz belongs in that list of yours, or anywhere near it.  Sari's sin was a small one of momentary laziness under pressure and stress.   It was not fundamentally dishonest or craven.   Sari is, and remains, a first-class journalist in my mind.    

Every miscarriage would have to be investigated as a homicide,because a dead person is involved. That's just one of the things that is so wrong about this idea.

Good point! 

 LinkedIn Page: Link


and I am not a stalker. I have learned, however, just to keep quiet when someone I know I have met earlier in life says, "Nice to meet you." No one wants to be chastised right off the bat. It did used to bother me that people didn't recognize me but I've learned not to take it too personally (unless it is one of my husband's partners, who should know that if they have met his wife, they have met me. There is only one of us, so far!)

You actually have the opposite of prosopagnosia.  

I'd think it would be a bit of a burden.  But you'd probably make a great detective. 

I'm not a huge fan of Maher's stand-up either, but this was brilliant. Link

Very smart man. 

This white first lady thing was SO absurdly overblown.  I find myself in agreement on it with ... Ann Coulter. 

In the "which is more offensive" poll, I just voted that Maher's comments were more offensive. So far, I'm the only person to do so. Reasoning: my finger slipped. Honestly, that vote was an accident, and I feel the need to retract it. Maher is often a jerk, but NO ONE actually thinks he was worse than Limbaugh.

Thank you. 

I think some conservatives think Maher was worse. 

OK, so maybe "endorses" overstates their position. But, I seem to recall in the annals of your chat, a PETA spokesman stating they had no objection. Correct? Well, apparently, it's not all it's cracked up to be. Still, I'm cracking up, thanks. Link

She's not a real woman.   A real woman, one with REAL ovaries, isn't going to take wussy "placenta pills."   She gonna eat her placenta raw, maybe with a little A-1 sauce.    

I'm a new reader - can you give me a brief synopsis of the back story? Are there consistent characters? Or is it more of a free for all? Love your other stuff, so I really want to love the comic too, but I think I might need an initial shove to get me off the ground.

Here ya go.      Hey, is there anyone skilled enough in Wiki to put in some images of the characters?   Barney and Clyde, at least?   I'd appreciate it.  

Hey, there! I hear you are coming to my neck of the woods next month to do a live interview at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire campus. Could you give more details about that?

April 19th.   The annual Ann Devroy lecture series will be an interview of me by the great Bob Edwards.  Questioner a lot smarter than questionee.  

I, too, find the shootout excuse to be pretty weak. If you look at the accuracy statistics for your average police department (people who are supposedly trained and re-tested for gun skills), the idea of some numbskull recreational gun-owner whipping a gun out to "protect" us all from an armed robber is terrifying. My chances of dying just went up exponentially! That said, I would do away with concealed weapons permits. Make them all visible/open carry permits. That way, as much as I find the guns distasteful, I can make the informed decision of whether to remain anywhere near the gun-carrier or to exit quickly to another location. Exceptions would be necessary for any place that citizens are REQUIRED to go to (like courthouses, for example).

You know, the gun debate pivots for me on the reason why each side feels the way it does.   This is oversimplifying but the anti-gun people tend to be terrified because people are dying all around them.   The pro-gun people are either skeert that the gummint or crimminils will take their stuff,  or just like to PLAY with guns.  

Just read your Sunday column. I get the humor about pee molecules, but the thing is, urea is MAGIC for certain types of dry skin, namely hyperkeratosis. And the sad thing is, it's really tough to find OTC lotions with sufficient urea as an ingredient, probably because of the squick factor. Most lotions won't advertise the content, so you have to read every label, and look for a lotion with urea as one of the first ingredients. Sigh. With people weren't so squeamish!

Thank you for your thoughs. 

It's a fricken pee molecult. 

Look at the murder rate in Switzerland. They have no gun control at all. With a general National Guard, people can have just about any weapon they want. But they are very civilized. It is the culture that makes the difference not the laws. And we have to fix our culture and not be so busy with fixing new laws that never work. The great myth of the liberals is that better gun laws will do some good. the great myth of the right is that better drug laws will do something good. Both sides are flat out wrong.

I don't disagree with this.   But changing a culture is a job for generations.    Changing the ridiculous ubiquity of guns can happen almost overnight. 

Interested in what type of car Rachel has, since it was still running after the show, so that's a significant amount of time. Wondering if she has one of those silent hybrids, which makes it a little more understandable that she forgot to turn off the car.

Old Mazda, I think.   2000 Prelude or something like that.  

I agree that the word is really nasty and foul. But I watch a lot of British comedy and I have noticed that British comedians (especially Ricky Gervais) use the word a lot. For some reason, when they do it, it doesn't bother me. I have to admit that the one time I was called the word (by a man in a convertible on the GW Parkway who didn't like my driving), I felt horrible the rest of the day. Had he called me a bitch I wouldn't have cared so much. I'm still puzzled as to why this is.

It's just this ... fraught word.   Freighted.  Fraught.   

Yeah, in England it has almost no power to offend.   Whereas "fanny" is a terrible word to use there.    It also means female genitalia, but in a really negative connotation. 

But I really think that people over reacted to him. I think you would have to be as big an idiot as Rush to think that her testimony wouldn't generate scorn and ridicule. The students of Georgetown law are viewed as part of the privileged elite. (Don't care if it is true, they are viewed as such) There were serious issues at stake involving, both religous freedom and women's health. No one could possibly care or believe that people who figured out a way to attend Georgetown law, can't figure out a way to buy a pack of condoms. I don't care what she actually said, that is all anybody was going to hear. I think that any law student should be able to figure that out and if not the democrats who brought her forth definitly knew. Maybe she was delinerately set up as a sacrificial distraction.

Whoa.  Wait a minute.   Limbaugh -- without any indication he was making this up -- described her testimony, repeatedly, as being all about how much sex she was having.   "She's having SO MUCH SEX...."  


In my vicious attack on him, I forgot to make fun of him for his apparent belief that if you have a LOT of sex, it means you need to spend more for birth control pills or IUDs. 

Pregnant woman attempts suicide so prosecutor charges her with "attempted feticide and murder." Nurse charged with killing her baby by nursing while taking painkillers for chronic pain despite dubious science to support the charges.

These are deeply disturbing. 

I suggest you don't allow the interview with Bob Edwards to be recorded. Unless you can get James Earl Jones to voice over your answers.

Sadly, I've had to come to terms with my voice.   It no longer bothers me.   It bothers everyone else, though. 

Oh heavens, how I love this chat....

It's why we're still going strong some 15 years later.   

Hey, how old IS this chat?   Can someone check?   

Have you read the Vanity Fair cover story about the Washington Post? Since you knew all the principal figures in the saga, I wondered what you thought about the accuracy of the narrative and the observations that were made?

It was a well-done story, but really didn't have much that seemed new.    I think at the Post it was met with a collective yawn (and probably sigh of relief.)

I hate the cliche "sigh of relief" and vow never to use it again. 

You actually have the opposite of prosopagnosia. I'd think it would be a bit of a burden. But you'd probably make a great detective. There is already a TV series based on the few people who have total recall, Marilu Henner being one of them.

Actually, total recall is slightly different.   Total recall involves remembering every detail of your life, day by day, minute by minute. 

This other thing is all about faces.   You can have one without the other. 

Rush Limbaugh is clearly sexually attracted to Sandra Fluke. That's fine. What is really creepy is his repeated sharing of his sexual fantasies with the world, under the diaphanous guise of political commentary. If he wants to have sex with her, he should just proposition her and leave the rest of us out of it.

I actually suggested this in my rant.   And I think it is probably literally true. 


Ahem. Link and Link


Yes, good point. 

A tool exists out there that perfectly demystifies the world of Barney & Clyde.    

Didn't Huxley discuss this in Brave New World, when John Savage asks why the powers that be don't just make everyone Alphas? Turned out that in a society of Alphas, no one was willing to take out the trash.

And other problems.   You don't want a society of swaggerers. 

We've gotten this far and nothing about Geraldo's comments regarding hoodies?

Oh, right!   I tweeted much about this.      

I met Geraldo in 1971.  I was about to publish a cover story in New York Magazine about the street gangs in the South Bronx.  It was a huge scoop.    I was alone on top of it. 

But the teenagers who were letting me into this world had made one request of me:   Get us on Geraldo.   Bring him out to see us.     He was a hero to NYC Hispanics, at the time. 

So I did.   I called him, told him when my story was gonna come out, and offered to be his guide to the world of the street gangs.  

He came, I introduced and he did a segment in ADVANCE of my story, not mentioning it, etc.   Essentially taking credit for discovering this demi-monde.      

At one point I asked him if he knew why I had brought him into this, and he sneered and said, sure:  To give your story a feel of currency.  

Dick.  Even then. 


I once despaired of having to call my husband with a spare key. He was in training at the time and it would have been ugly. I got all the way to the pay phone before I remembered that I drove a Jeep Wrangler soft-top. All I had to do was unzip a window.


When I was little and asked about circumcision, my father explained that he had planted my foreskin in the back yard to grow a penis tree. Hadn't I ever noticed them dangling there in the late spring? I was mortified, and kicking myself for being so unobservant.


There is a tall skinny tower in Northern Manhattan that can be seen at a distance from the West Side Highway.  It was kind of creeopy; looked like something out of Arabian Knights.    When I was a kid, and we were driving past it, I once asked my Uncle Irving what it was.  He told me he didn't like to talk about it or think about it much, but it was The Tower of the Man Who Hates Children. 

That was it.    I never knew whether to take this seriously, but I remember gauging distances and imagining rifle scopes, and thinking we were safe.  I was pretty sure. 

In anticipation of our next President's being a member of the Mormon faith, I recently read Fawn Brodie's biography of Joseph Smith; and then read Jon Krakauer's "Under the Banner of Heaven," about the fundamentalist Mormon movement. One of the things I learned was that the old time, first gen Mormons, and the current fundamentalist Mormons, strongly believed in plural marriage. As you said in a slightly difrerent context, "it is deeply held dogma based on moral conviction. " I don't happen to share that conviction, nor their rationales that they offer; but, if we as a society are extending the meaning of marriage to include same-sex couples, whay not extend it to also include polygyny, polyandry, and group marriage?

Well, I reject your parallelism.   Same-sex marriage, to me, is the same -- identical -- principle as hetero marriage.   Two people presumably in love commit to a lifetime together. 

Polygamy subverts the center of that.  

Having said that, I'd probably be in favor of legalizing polygamy, and polyandry, absent a convincing non-religious argument against it. 

OK, I have no idea whether this is a thing, or whether it only applies to me and my wife. When I get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom I do it without turning on any lights. Mostly this is because I hate turning on lights when my eyes are accustomed to the dark; but I also find that although our bathroom is very dark, there is just enough ambient light to find my way to the toilet, raise the lid, send out a couple of sounding drips to confirm my position, and then begin peeing. I can also listen to the sound the water makes to confirm my position relative to the center of the bowl. End result is pee in the toilet, not on a seat, and eyes and brain that weren't just assaulted by light prior to trying to go back to sleep. My question is this: why can I, someone who actually needs to aim, do this in the dark, while my wife finds it necessary to turn on the light? I don't know why this bothers me, because she at least turns on the small light over the shower so the bedroom isn't flooded in light; but it still perplexes me. In asking I generally get a response along the lines of "I need to see what I'm doing," but this just doesn't make sense to me. Is this something common between women and men? Do all women prefer some kind of light to guide their way? Do most men prefer to go in sonar mode? These are the thoughts that kept me out of the really good colleges.

It is because your wife is a woman.  She is a kinder and cleaner person in body and soul, more horrified at the possibility, however remote, that she might miss.  Being a male, you're willing to wing it based on, basically, a bat's sense of echolocution. 

Ok, real educator here (trying not to be too condescending...) Not only do I see nothing wrong with the pledge, I also can see definite merits, but not this "indoctrinating children with nationalism" nonsense. I feel like you are assuming that structure and rote memorization hurt critical thinking. Children need structure from which to grow on. There is a reason Einstein memorized the multiplication tables before developing his theories of relativity. While the pledge may be a meaningless activity to them in terms of fostering patriotism, it is still a teaching activity. Students learn memorization, public speaking, and following directions skills every day. And it gives them an opportunity to have a conversation about what those words mean. Furthermore, a beginning of the day ritual is a good way for students to transition into school, so why not the pledge? This whole debate just seems like too many people getting up in arms about saying or not saying God in school. I also think that young students should be told they must say it, stupid rules in school mirror stupid rules in life. Students need to learn that they cannot always get what they want. I think the pledge is mostly benign, but definitely net positive.

This is as close as anyone has come to a defensible defense of the Pledge.   Thank you. 

I don't buy it, but thank you.   There are many other ways these lessons about life could be presented, in ways that don't seem unAmerican.  

When you had that discussion it was two days before I went in to terminate. I wasn't worried about loving my child, I was worried about this: I was not married to the child's father, have no other children and likely won't have other children as I am 40+. Who would care for my child when I wasn't around to do it? I couldn't get past my fears of people doing horrific things to my special needs child.

As I said and presume most others here agree:  I don't judge people at all who make this difficult decision.  Thanks for telling us about it. 

One of your updates asked if it was OK to hit car doors since it was OK to hit bumpers when parking. You said no, doors weren't designed to be tapped, bumpers were. In general, I agree. But..... The parking lot at my office has one space at the end of the front row that technically should not be a space. It is too small for anything but a compact car and even that's a stretch. One morning, I got to work early enough to snag the space next to the small one. I pulled in from the row behind so my nose was facing the building, like I had backed in to the spot. When I came out at the end of the day, some jackass in a giant SUV had parked in the small spot facing the opposite way as me. Meaning the driver could get out on his/her side and not hit my car. But it also meant that the gas pig was slap up against the drivers side of my car, allowing me about 8 inches to get in. I figured this gave me the right to smack the crap out of his/her vehicle, which I did, leaving a couple of nice dings and some white paint on the passenger side of the SUV. Moron shouldn't have parked in a spot not meant for a behemouth. Just for the record, I haven't parked in the space next to the small one again, just to avoid this problem. But I don't feel bad about what I did, either.

I bet you are a guy.  

My view is that life is too short for this.    Listen, I am absent-minded.   That very well could have been me who parked you in (except for the big fat car) and I would have done it without realizing I was doing that to you.   Just oblivious.  Never would have done it on purpose. 

So, sorry.  But thanks for dinging my car.   

OK, I'll bite. Nationalism is extraordinarily important for a democracy to function. We need people to not only believe in the system, but have an emotional investment in it such that we cringe at the idea of rule-breaking (like running a red light at an empty intersection for example). We also need a willing an eager military to defend the country if we ever needed it again. The pledge is an easy way to start kids down this path.

That's like saying we can start kids down the path of becoming Einsteins by making them memorize by rote, at 7, all the formulas in Einstein's General Theory of Relativity.   They'll learn numbers, not their meanings.  And it will be a chore they will resent. 

Gene! You shared my perspective when I was handed a month-long jail sentence -- that this would be an irreplaceable experience! Fortunately the judge was kind enough to give me a choice as to when I would serve (within a 6 month window). I could not start it that day (got to get my affairs in order, figure out who's feeding my cat, and so on) and I was set to ride my bicycle across the country at the tail end of the window. This reduced my options down to one (and it was very unfavorable as well): serve my sentence during college finals. Most of my professors let me take my exam early, but with one specifically, I asked to write final paper because I thought my experience would align with course content. My professor agreed and 3 days after I got out I turned in my paper. Apparently it was a pretty good paper because I asked if I would allow it to be printed in an upcoming edition of a course textbook. I said yes and now I get to weigh my accomplishment (published in a textbook!) with admitting jail time on resumes (I probably should have changed the paper's title. Damn hindsight).

Will you share with us what you were popped for?

Is 'sex act' less graphic or does it expressly refer to intercourse and we need to be more specific because of Clinton splitting hairs?

I suspect that newspapers use a form of code:  "Sex" means intercourse.    "A sex act" means Lewinsky.  

If anything, it was too subtle and ironic, spinning the question of 2008--is America ready for a black President--in a humorous way. Anyone who saw that as an attack on the spouses of the Republican candidates was just looking to be offended. The interesting subtext, of course, is that DeNiro seems to exclusively "date" black women.

Well, yes, exactly.   In my opinion this was a joke that was, or should have been, offensive to no one.  You have to analyze the engine of the joke:  Why was it funny?  

It was funny because of its inversion; the "butt" of the joke were the people who three years ago seemed bothered by the notion of a black First Lady.... we were ready for THAT?   Well, it turns out that Michelle Obama has been an excellent, even popular, First Lady.   The original question was idiotic?

Is this in some way a slur on the three women mentioned?  No, not even by implication.   It might have been, ironically, if DeNiro had not injected race into it:  Then he'd appear to be criticizing the three women as unworthy successors.   But because it was about race, it wasn't really about them at all. 

Nor was it about previous First Ladies.  It was really about nothing other than the fact that   the original fears about Michelle were ridiculous. 

By the way, I think Michelle had to criticize it.   She had no choice, because it SEEMED to be about race, and was complimentary of her.  

I believe this was yourfirst regular chat: Dec 18, 2001 You discussed your article on Battle Mountain, NV. I submitted the last real question that day.  Link

I don't think this was the first -- I doubt I started shortly after 9/11.  

I'll let y'all know in the updates. 

Thanks for today -- great questions.     

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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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