Chatological Humor: Monthly with Moron

May 02, 2012

Note to readers: This chat will take place on Wednesday, May 2 instead of on its originally scheduled date, Tuesday April 24.

Take today's polls:
- Good taste or bad taste? (Men | Women)
- Which name is best?

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

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

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

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Good afternoon.

First things first.    Here is a video of Mattingly the dog, singing “Just Like a Woman.”  (Lucille the dog makes a brief cameo.)

Second, if this is not the best commercial you will ever see, it should come close.   Perfect in concept and execution. 

Now, to the business of the day.   Once again in the news this morning is a government sting of dubious – or, at least debatable -- merit.    It’s a good story featuring photos of People Who Should be Convicted on Mug Shot Alone, an oeuvre of photo that is a staple of my Twitter feed. Here's the link.

To summarize: The federal government arrested five a-holes on charges of trying to blow up a commuter bridge near Cleveland.     The bridge, however, was never in jeopardy.     Basically, after the FBI heard there were some anarchist a-holes intent on doing harm of some sort, they set them up with an informant stooge who sold them harmless gunk as explosive, talked out possible targets with them, helped them decide on this bridge, reporting back to the feds all the while.  After the suspects planted the phony explosive, and activated what they thought was a detonator, they were arrested.

Today’s intro is going to be a series of polls on this sting and others.   All are real.


Take the polls here.


Okay, if you haven’t done so already, please take today’s regular polls because we are going to discuss them early and often:


- Good taste or bad taste? (Men | Women)
- Which name is best?


Let’s go.  I start answering questions at noon ET.

Ok, 40 something female here, but I'm not getting the "disgusting" on that video. The daughter is a surfer and is wearing an outfit appropriate for that sport. The camera doesn't linger on her butt, it's just there because it's part of her body. Maybe my perspective is a little different because I've spent time in beach communities, but short of an Amish approach to advertising I don't see what's wrong with showing a young, healthy, lovely young lady enjoying her sport. I'd rather see that than see images of young women lounging around texting, eating junk food, or discussing clothing/makeup/hair as if world peace depends on it. She's outside and surfing! Yay, her!

Clearly, you are in the majority.   I am not, which is making me feel silly: both like a prude, and a dirty old man.  

From the moment I first saw that ad I was kind of appalled.  Here's my thinking:  For an ad like this, you can use all sorts of imagery, all sorts of camera angles: Everything involves a choice.   They chose to end that commercial with a slo-mo, lingering fade out of this young lady's butt.   It sort of compelled hetero males to think about her sexually.    The fact that the ad made it clear that whatever the actress's real age, we were to regard her as an adolescent -- that compounded the problem, for me.   I was being manipulated into looking at an underage girl sexually. 

Yeah, I know.  Poor me. 

It bothered me a bit, still does.  Knowing the vast majority of you disagree with me doesn't help my self esteem at all.  

So, on the poll with the Style Invitational, what you are looking at are the final moments of an elaborate judging process The Empress goes through.   She's winnowed it all down to her favorite thirty or so, and then comes the final fine tuning: Which are the actual winners, and which are runners up.    

It's in that fine tuning that intricate prejudices are revealed, and where she and I sometimes get into minuscule debates about theory.    She weighs more heavily than I do "degree of difficulty," assigning points to cleverness, erudition, and whatnot.  I lean more toward juvenalia, sight gags, concepts that elicit a subversive laugh.   And by the early votes, you're with me. 

The Empress's faves were the top four.     Mine were the Amish stripper, et tu boote, and No Ship, Sherlock. 

I haven't seen one aspect of the Supreme Court strip search decision discussed, and I'm wondering whether it's due to the media not quite knowing how to go here - but all my female friends when discussing it said the same thing - "but isn't it worse for women? what if you had your period? or had been raped or something?" Most of us felt it would be horrifying even if it was a woman performing the search - it could still be humiliating to the point of lasting psychological damage. If I was planning on going to a protest where i thought there was even a little chance i might be swept up and arrested, even for doing nothing other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time, this ruling might actually keep me from protesting. Am I just making too much of this or do you think there is an argument for a disparate effect on gender here, as well as suppressing political speech? (and I notice all the female justices dissented.)

And I think O'Connor would have dissented, too. 

I think women are more concerned with body-related privacy issues; if women could use urinals, I absolutely know there would always be walls between them, unlike the typical men's room horses-at-a-trough phenomenon.  

How do you feel about IQ tests? Have you ever taken one? Are you pleased with the result if you did? Do you think it would be bold/worthwhile/appropriate for one candidate, for any office, to challenge another to a test taking? Would the results of said test sway your vote, do you think? I ask this because I see a strong relationship between smarter-than-average-but-not-genius and being an assh*le. I theorize that Santorum is near 115 - above average, but not high enough to know what he doesn't know. I put Newt in at about 123. Bill Clinton, by contrast, probably comes in at 147. What say you? I bet you could get a column out of this.

I think it would be suicidal for one candidate to challenge the other to an IQ test.  It would seem weirdly elitist. 

So, Mitt should do it! 

My 1Q was tested at 160 in 7th grade, and never tested again, but I am absolutely certain it has been slowly receding ever since.  I am currently a little below average. 

Unless it is my computer, the link to the greatest commercial states it is "not available". What was it?

Anyone else having this problem?

I feel like an idiot, but can you explain why the comic is tasteless? I saw a lot of women judged it as so, and I guess I don't get it. It just struck me as stupid.

Gladly.  What is happening in this comic strip?   A little girl is showing off a talent to her father.  He reacts with odd enthusiasm.   But okay, it's a comic strip.    Then, in her excitement and enthusiasm, she accidentally trips on a wire, causing some damage.   For this she is beaten by what appears to be a blackjack.  

Someone suggests it is a shoe.  Whatever. 


Gene, I have been (relatively) happily married for almost 20 years. I have recently found myself attracted to one of my friends (we are both female, mid-40's and, of course, smoking hot). I think I want to act on this attraction and I think she does, too. We have both had previous experiences with same-sex relationships prior to our current (heterosexual) marriages. She doesn't think her husband would care. I think mine might. Not sure I can even broach the subject with him. Would this constitute infidelity in your mind?

Ooh, interesting.  So you suggest it might not constitute infidelity because ... why, exactly?   Because it is not really competing for the same emotional part of you?  

It is, though.  It is competing for utter emotinal intimacy, that part, and that part knows no gender specifics.   

I am not judging you here; I'm not saying it's immoral or unethical or unwise or unfair or whatever.   But it's surely "infidelity."  Whether it's also wrong or bad  might depend on many factors, including what your respective marital understandings are, whether there's any chance this might break up either marriage.  

I do like the casual adventuresomeness implicit in it.   And it does pique my general feeling that marriage doesn't imply ownership.   

How do others feel? 

I meant to ask this during the last chat but forgot, so I'm hoping I'm not topically late. During the whole brouhaha over birth control, I kept hearing the comment about why don't women just put an aspirin between their knees. Now, as a 27-year-old woman, I get putting your knees together. I also get the idea of putting an object between them to pinch with your knees. But why, for God's sake, an aspirin?!?! I've asked several people this, and none of them knew.

Because it is a pill, as opposed to something else small, such as a pin.   So, ironically, it is being used as a "birth control pill."

Does the FBI think we can't see that they're practising entrapment for the purpose of looking good in the press?

Sorry I disappeared there for a while.   Was peeking my crazy liberal head into your answers on the stings. 

Well, okay.   I find them all problematic.   Surprise, surprise.     I am really nervous about creating a crime and then busting people for falling for it.   I'd to hear your thinking on why and when it is okay.  Have at me. 

Gene, I thought of you last night while catching up with Dancing With the Stars on my DVR. I usually fast forward thru the opening dance number, but a solo violinist caught my attention. I wondered "Could it be? Would he really do DWTS?". Sure enough, it was Joshua Bell. Captivating.

Josh is no snob.   And he is mischievous.  It's a good combination.  

Post Hunt 2012?

June third.  Save the date! 

Gene, you missed an option in your question in the poll from the 4/10 update about whether or not you'd fight the speeding ticket with the grainy picture. I answered that no, I wouldn't fight it. But my reasons have less to do with "truth" than with being too lazy to get into a fight that I have a good chance of losing. I guess you could say there's an element of 'truth" to it, since I'd definitely fight a ticket I knew wasn't me, but I think my actual thought process would be more like "Meh, I don't feel like going through the hassle."

Ah, but when I posted that poll I didn't say the case was real and that I was going to fight it.      And write about it.  Which I did.   AND I WON.

So I laughed at the vacuum commercial playing off the idea the ridiculous bodies of models these days. However, I think it would have gone a lot better if the woman in her natural, non-vacuumed look was actually more, well, normal looking. Going from crazy thin to crazy fat pushed it over the boundaries for me. We went from laughing at the stupid body stereotypes created by the media to laughing at fat people. Not cool with that. For the record, I'm a woman in her late 20s who is neither thin nor crazy fat.

That was my problem with it, too.  I think that if the fashion model had been a little too thin, and the "normal" woman had been more "normal," it would have been very effective and the "butt" haha of the joke would have been the fashion industry / our sexist expectations.  

But yeah.  This was a fat joke.   

This may be way out of your knowledge base, but I can't think of any other place to ask. I am a lady, & find that right before & after my... monthly visitor... is when I am at my most regular re: poo-ing. The other weeks of the month I am much less regular & often have... unsatisfyingly small/difficult poos. I've taken a hard look at my diet/water intake to see if that is fluctuating as well, but it really doesn't alter much. I am left with the conclusion that there is some correlation between my monthly & my (gene's twitter icon). Is that possible, & if so, why? Is it a cramping thing (perhaps the movement of the cramps aids an otherwise sluggish bowl)? Gene, you & your marvelous chat are my only hope, as I would never talk about this in person with anyone.

This is way beyond my ambit of knowledge.  Anyone else notice this, or have an explanation?

I did read somewhere that, counterintuitively, menses delivers a subconscious sense of calm to a woman -- everything is fine, cyclical, flushed out, working properly -- so I wonder if this might be about relief of stress? 

Sara Ganim won a Pulitzer yesterday at the age of 24 for her work on the Jerry Sandusky story. How would your career have changed had you won a Pulitzer at 24?

I think it would have hurt me, substantially.     The Pulitzer is a dangerous thing; winning it is disproportionately a matter of luck and whim, but most people don't know that.  They treat you differently.   You need to be able to see through that, understand the thinness behind it, and feel about it more lucky than validated.   I'm not sure I would have had the perspective to understand that, at 24.  I think I would have felt as though I had arrived at some deserved pantheon, and maybe stopped working as hard, or as neurotically.   

That's not to say Ganim is going to react that way.  She may be wise and humble beyond her years. 

Is not funny the same as tasteless? I didn't think the comic strip was funny, but I didn't think it was tasteless either.

Tasteless was probably not the right word, or the perfect word.   But to me that was beyond "not funny."  It was promiscuously cruel.  Why was Little Iodine spanked?  What did she do wrong, even by 50s standards??

We had this debate way back in the 1990s, so those who forget history will repeat it. To sum things up, our national leaders, including our President and House Speaker, tried to convince us that oral sex is not cheating. Jerry Seinfeld settled the issue by declaring that when the nipple appears, it is sex. Just thoughts readers might appreciate a historical perspective

The greatest subtext in the whole Watergate thing, the most wonderful understory, was that it became clear that the President of the United States, bless his suth'n redneck heart and soul, actually BELIEVED that eatin' ain't cheatin.'    He ordered his conduct that way, so that, to himself, he denied infidelity. 

I took an IQ test as a child and got the same result as you. Then I took another and scored an 80. I don't think I'm always stupider than when I was a kid, though. I like to think of it as good china and everyday china: usually moronic, brilliant about annually.

An ... 80????    Um.   An 80 is borderline mentally retarded. 

" if women could use urinals, I absolutely know there would always be walls between them" Just speaking from my own personal experience, but as former military and as an avid camper I've never had an issue either peeing or pooping in the woods with other women about or even close by. I've known a few here and there who are a little squeamish about privacy in that kind of situation, but when it's a bunch of ladies I have no problem. Also you've obviously never seen the ladies' locker room at pools or gyms if you think we're squeamish on the whole about privacy. The unreasonable search thing is disconcerting to me not because someone might see me naked, but because someone might molest me (a not unreasonable fear, given how many cops have been accused of groping or otherwise sexually assaulting women in their care).

Okay, mebbe I stand corrected. 

Hey, has anyone noticed that TSA patdowns have gotten even more evasive?  I get them every damn time I fly because I have metal knees.   They ram their hand so far up the inseam I feal I should turn and cough. 

Would you let your husbands watch? If so, then it's more about the sex. That said, your marriages won't be the same if you do go through with the "affair."

But "not the same" in exactly what way?

I didn't see the punchline coming. Terrific.

Yes, I had no idea what was coming with the grandma ad.  I really think it might be the best ad I have ever seen.  People: I'm having a puter problem and need to re-boot.  This should take less than two minutes.  Please chat amongst yourselves, and eyes to the front.  

Okay, sorry about that.   For your patience, I give you this exceptional story just forwarded to me by Manteuffel. 

Not sure if we have another chance to Chat before the Hunt, so I express here my heartfelt belief the we devout few deserve a hint. I attest we Chatter-Hunters are a rare breed given my recent run-in with The Butcher. He seemed genuinely surprised to be recognized, suggesting this happens only infrequently, and probably only by Hunters. I assume he mentioned to you being recognized out in the wild; it was I who asked "hey, Tom, when is the Hunt?" Of course I knew already...

Okay, but keep this to yourself:  It will be of enormous value to you -- hint, hint -- if during the Hunt you walk up to Tom and smear some saliva in his hair. 

I felt that the stings that had someone helping someone do the deed, the mother selling her child, the fellow anarchist and the bridge, were more wrong. I felt like the others were a simpler decision based on your own judgements. Do you want to buy drugs? Do you want to take money for giving political consideration? Having someone in cahoots with you would make you more likely to admit to something that you probably wouldn't otherwise.

The problem here, I think, is fruit from a poisoned tree.  Maybe there is a congressman who might be tempted if offered a bribe, but who is never offered a bribe, and never will be.   What have you done to his life?  You, the government, have corrupted him. 

I know as a journalist that you enter tricky waters when you try to manipulate a result.   It poisons the result.    I am bothered by all of these things, though the one that gives me greatest pause is the one about the toddler being offered for sex.   That was a seriously dangerous man being taken out of society.    But even there... 

I used to date someone in advertising. The surfing commercial makers absolutely, positively intended to sexualize the girl in that ad. If not, they would have put her in a full wetsuit, or cast a younger girl, or a boy, or switched to rock climbing, or framed her feet and hands, etc. The commercial's concept is so broad there a hundreds of less sexually charged options they could have chosen, but didn't. They made the choices they did to draw your attention to a boring product and a quotidian pitch. And it worked.

Thank you.  My point exactly.   I give them no pass on that, unless your view it is OK to sexualize an adolescent.   

Cramping aids peristalsis. This is a medical fact. The lady with the problem should practise yoga twists; they're great for moving things along.

Ah.  Good!  

I think there's a clue in the fact that we are unhappy with the sale of actual heroin. Blowing up a bridge is very bad, but you can't arrest someone for talking about it, only for actually doing it. If someone wants to blow up a bridge, I would rather that they don't get close to doing so, so I'd rather they were sold some harmless gunk than anything that could do real damage. I'd rather they were arrested for trying to blow up a bridge with Silly Putty than for talking about blowing up a bridge; it's a lesser civil liberties issue. (By contrast, I'd rather that the drug dealers were sold corn starch or something that looked good but was harmless. At the same time I understand that drug dealers might want to test the goods, so maybe I would be okay.) There is always a tension between liberty and security, and most people draw it very close to security. I think you draw it very close to liberty. Don't be surprised that people disagree with you.

Now, see, here's the really insidious part about the drugs:  They HAD to sell em real drugs, or else they wouldn't have been in possession of drugs, and there'd be nothing on which to arrest them. 


DO YOU ALL NOT SEE THIS SLIPPERY SLOPE?  IT'S just a bad business all around. 

Looks like she is being spanked for breaking the fishbowl. The object she's being hit with seems to be a shoe or slipper. Apparently the author is going for irony here since Iodine perfected all these odd awkward skills using her feet but can't walk without tripping. Sounds about right for the 50s but seems pretty lame today.

B-but she didn't deliberately break the fishbowl.   She tripped, trying to get to the door.    This is not a spankable offense.  It's not even an offense. 

Speaking as a lesbian, the only way in which this is not cheating is if you a) somehow think that lesbian sex "doesn't count" (it does) or b) get your husband's permission. If your husband is cool with it, I say go ahead (it sounds hot!). But if he isn't or you don't tell him, you're cheating, period.


So, I'm trying to think if I'd be okay with it, as a husband.  I think yes. 

I have no idea why, but a change in poop is not uncommon during your period. A lot of people I know go from regular to having the runs. We have had deep discussions about it. I'm not sure anybody's come up with a reason other than "haha hormones screw you."

I liked the peristalsis answer.   A cramp is a cramp, maybe. 

Gene, I am not surprised that your IQ is 160, which puts you at the level of one in about 20,000 people on earth. I also think, at a certain level, "smart knows smart" which is why you are such good friends with Joel A. Finally, I have met Santorum in a professional setting, and my observation from that is that his IQ is probably significantly higher than 115, and very likely more than 140. This does not come across when he's on television because he is putting on an act to be someone he isn't, and that takes up some of his processing power. I don't think anyone has figured out exactly why he puts on this act (I haven't). But after seeing him on TV every day putting on that mysterious act made me terribly nervous about him becoming President. Glad that won't happen for at least 4 more years.

Oh, that won't happen, period.    He has said too many things that are not going to fly, even in this center-to-right country.   And yes, I think he is smart.   Smarter maybe than smartiepants Gingrich. 

As to IQ, I wasn't kidding: I really do feel a lot stupider than I did at 12.    Less sharp.   Less certain.    Less logical.   I wouldn't be surprised if my IQ was way lower.   I should test it, for a column! 

Hm.  Gonna do that. 

I'm not entirely sure of your ethics on coersion. Here, let me take your pulse.


Inside joke.   About the time I pretended to be a doctor. 

I didn't get married until rather late in life, and this has proven helpful on the fidelity question. We find that the essence of marriage is mutual respect and open communication, not the mechanics of 3rd party physical contact. If you have open honest communication, you can discuss fully your desires about other people, including the part about not hurting your partner's feelings. If, in turn, you can have those discussions, the possibility of infidelity disappears -- having talked with your spouse, you will know his feelings, and knowing his feelings while loving and respecting him utterly, you will act accordingly. So, if you don't think you could even raise the subject for discussion, the intimacy of your marriage is already in trouble. Work on that first.

Very mature! 

Aptonym for a transgendered beauty queen: Jenna Talachova

I initially didn't see it.   Had to try it out on a couple of friends, one of whom finally clued me in, and yes, it is startlingly good.    Jenna Talackova can be read as "Genital, lack of a."   Now you can quibble about  the facts: Ladies do not lack genitalia, they merely lack male genitalia,  but that is, indeed a quibble over an almost amazing aptonym. 

I am a little confused by the name.   Most stories say Jenna Talackova was born Walter Talackova, which doesn't make sense since the va ending is a Russian matronym.    I think she was probably born Walter Talakov, actually.  The better question is whether she chose "Jenna" to CREATE the aptonym, which would invalidate it as an aptonym.  I'm guessing she didn't.  It's pretty sophisticated. 

Any thoughts you'd like to share on the GOP coffee mug? was it a gag in the first place?

Yes, I ran down the provenance of that great GOP coffee mug from the last chat, featuring badly drawn images of such luminaries as Trent Lott, Joseph McCarthy, Strom Thurmond and Herbert Hoover.   Tragically, it was a joke -- the winner of a design contest by Fishs Eddy, the novelty company.     Apparently, though, only a couple hundred were produced, meaning I have an ironically valuable objet d'art. 

Overall, I found your Republican-dog column funny and basically good-humored. But if I were a Republican (I'm not), this part would have offended me: "As might be expected, she has some issues with racial diversity: She is friendly to most dogs but will snarl and snap at Akitas and Airedales, two fussy-looking breeds that resemble large stuffed toys. To her, there are litmus tests for being a real dog, and they just don’t pass." The implication here, if you follow the analogy, is not just that Republicans have a problem with racial diversity within the party. The implication is that they tend to be racist, and to regard certain (not-white) people as less than fully human. There may be a grain of truth here: I don't by any means think that the party has adequately addressed its problems with racism, although I do give decent Republicans credit for trying. (I could go on to rant about the prominent, non-decent Republicans who aren't trying at all, but I won't.) But that's not what the column seems to say. Instead, it seems to say, essentially, Republican = racist. I realize that my analysis strips away the column's genial, humorous tone--but at this moment in the essay, the underlying analogy really does seem hostile and incendiary, even if the tone is light.

The reaction to this column actually surprised me.    I didn't expect Republicans to hate it, but they did, with a passion.  They seemed to think I was guilty of unfair generalization, whereas, in truth, I think they hate it because all Republicans disrespect dogs, and so resented the comparison. 

Haha.  (Watch--that'll get letters, too.)   No, I really DIDN'T expect the Goppers to hate it, mostly because I felt I had kind of reasonably (if judgmentally) summarized their actual positions.   They DO show inappropriate interest in the reproductive systems of women they don't know.   They DO oppose entitlements, they DO want less government, etc.   

As far as "have a problem with racial diversity," they do, quite literally.  Look at the faces on the floor of the GOP convention.  Even the party acknowledges this is a problem; they simply don't understand its roots, since clearly the GOP should be wildly and enthusiastically embraced by people of color, for some reason.    

As far as litmust tests for being a "real" dog/American, yeah, I can see why that might have rankled a little.  But I just urge us all to go back and revisit the 2008 election and all the innuendo about whether Mr. Obama was born here, and whatnot.   

The story about the woman in Germany is kind of funny, but there's an important detail missing. Why did the men feel like they couldn't leave? Were they locked in somehow? Did she hide their clothes or threaten them in some way ? The fact that one of them was found crying in the street makes it seem like they could have left, and her only crime was to keep asking for more. It would probably be less funny and more disturbing if it was clear that she was actually trapping or threatening them in some way.

Oh, I assumed there was a physical threat.   If this story is true.   This one smells a bit of apocrypha. 

Are you kidding that you don't know why Little Iodine was spanked? I'll explain it here for you. Little Iodine was performing tasks with her feet. Then the doorbell rings so she answers it, presumably by gripping the doorknob with one of her feet. She is wearing a dress. Therefore, she exposed herself.

Thank you.  

"Maybe there is a congressman who might be tempted if offered a bribe, but who is never offered a bribe, and never will be. What have you done to his life? You, the government, have corrupted him. " No, the congressman was corrupt. Just because he never was offered before doesn't make him not corrupt. I have never been offered a bribe at my job so I've never taken one. That doesn't make me not corrupt. What makes me not corrupt is that if I am offered one, I will say no.

Ah, see, I disagree.    What is in our head stays in our head, until it doesn't.   We're back to the old trope about the pillar of the community who fantasizes about raping children.  I contend that if he never does it, he's a fine man, and not a perv.  

Yes there is a definite correlation according to several comment sections and a few articles in the lady blogs I visit (yes yes, I know the plural of anecdote is not data but informally I believe it does apply). From what I gather the current laypersons theory is that the hormones that cause the uterus to contract to flush out bits of unused uterine lining (apologies for graphicness) also cause contractions in your lower bowels that move things along a bit easier. For funsies, if you just google "period sh!ts" you can find all sorts of corraboration to your pooper's experience. It is a thing.

Thank you. 

How does thinking that parents who accidentally leave their kids in the car seat are not monsters become a partisan political thing? A position only a "stupid liberal" has? Is this what we've come to?

I've heard this for a while.   It's part of the righty catechism: 

It's because liberals don't believe in personal responsibility.  We all see ourselves as victims of an unfair system that government needs to fix by increasing taxes on the rich. 

I assume you've already seen this, but if not, it's right up your alley: Link

This is a brilliant name, but only a runner-up to "Taco B.M. Monster."

The comic strip survey was confusing because it's not disgusting. Just cruel, bad parenting in service of a very weak punchline. But this ending used to be pretty standard, especially for comics like the katzenjammer (sp?) kids, though they usually did something more deserving of a spanking.

Oh, Hans and Fritz were monsters!  They did terrible things.   They skinned cats and whatnot.   

I repeat: Little Iodine was completely guiltless here. 

Just want to make sure I didn't do something wrong. I sent you an e-mail that included an essay I'd written on my dog's death, for no reason other than I knew you'd understand and so few people do. Didn't need or expect a response. But then I wondered if you have to delete those kinds of things unread because it otherwise puts you in the position of being accused of using someone's material yourself. My understanding is that many authors have to do that. I hope that's not the case. I certainly didn't intend to cause any problems. I just miss my dog.

If I didn't respond, I didn't see this.  Please re-send. 

I refuse to read humor, for the reason you state.  I politely explain that my fear is I will inadvertently plagiarize, internalize a shtick, or something. 

"Hey, has anyone noticed that TSA patdowns have gotten even more evasive?" Um, you mean INVASIVE, don't you?

Ha.  Yes, invasive. 

I keep intending to moan a little.   See if that throws them. 

Just curious -- do you think you'd have the same reaction if the questioner and proposed partner were the husbands, rather than the wives? Would it seem potentially "casual" to you if two hetero married guys suddenly realized they were hot for each other? Or would it foretell the likely end of their marriages? Men apparently perceive women getting it on with each other as completely consistent with those women remaining fully interested in sex with men. I read somewhere that this explains the popularity of lesbian porn among straight men; the viewer imagines that if he happened on such a scene, he would be invited to join in, so what he's watching on the screen are multiple partners for him, amusing themselves until he gets there. A straight woman probably doesn't harbor the belief or fantasy that a group of gay men would turn their collective attention to her.

Yeah, to be honest, I would have reacted differently, and it may be through ignorance or prejudice.    If a man wanted to do that with a man, my assumption would be that he is basically gay and living a lie; with a woman, I wouldn't make that assumption, necessarily. 

As someone with a spanking fetish, I can tell you that spanking in comics was very common in the 50's and earlier in dozens of strips but especially Little Iodine. I feel pretty confident that the artist simply liked drawing spankings; no real excuse - or punch line - was necessary.


Sure, I get that it's a slippery slope. The question is, do you venture out on the slope, knowing that it's slippery, preparing yourselves with restraints and cautions to protect you from sliding all the way down, or do you stay off the slope entirely, even if it means that bad people do bad things to other people? I would rather be on the slope. I would rather have free speech buttressed by the "clear and present danger" qualifier than free speech alone.

I understand.  I see both sides here, but I lean the other way. 

Please look into this. While I agree that dilemma is, and always has been, correct, why are so many people stating they were taught the incorrect spelling? People from the U.S., Canada, the U.K. insist they were taught this; I'm one of them. How could so many of us be wrong?

I think the answer is that we must define what "taught" means.   In general, we are not taught spelling except very early in in school -- maybe until 3rd or 4th grade --and the words we were taught were simpler than "dilemma."  It is well possible that ignorant teachers did not correct "dilemna," though.  It's a common misspelling. 

Barney & Clyde recently determined that the most commonly misspelled name is "Gandhi," misspelled as "Ghandi" roughly a third the time.   The most commonly misspelled word is "definitely," also misspelled about the third of the times in various ways, most commonly "definately."

The worst institutionalized case of misspelling of which I know was when the head copyeditor at the National Law Journal sent out a memo telling us that we had to stop writing "renowned"  because there was no such word.  The proper word, he said, was "renown," as in "the renown surgeon." 

Question: Would you apply your patented parking technique to a spot, say, six inches longer than your car, if both the cars ahead and behind your spot were still occupied by their drivers? If not, why not? Extra credit. What if both drivers were big burly men who looked irritated at waiting for their wives?

Of course I would not.   I would not because I know how silly-assed some people can be about this, and I would not wish to provoke conflict.   I would not hesitate to ask one of them to move forward or backwards a bit, if there were room, however, so that I could more easily get in. 

I think it is amusing that so many people's prescription for the situation where there's a GIANT space in which your car can fit, is to  go away and leave that GIANT SPACE, just because it's tight and might involve a tap.  


By comparing the c-word to "dick" or the s-word, you are comparing apples to oranges. The c-word is a much closer equilivant to the n-word or "faggot". Maher would not get a pass for using those terms to describe anyone in a joke. There are guys out there who hate women. There just are. This is very different than guys who are afraid of women or who are awkward around women or even guys who prefer to be around guys. Maher's act gives me every indication that he is a guy who hates women. At a minimum, he is a guy who acts like he hates women. In general, I think words that are generically applied across the board to everyone loose their meaning (s-word, f-word even the male and female versions of the b-word) but words generated from hate do not.

Well, this is interesting.  

I need to go back to the initial notion that once you accept that most women REGARD the c-word to be loathsome, it IS loathsome, and the discussion can end.   Parsing the issue for additional meaning is pointless.    But I still do not understand what it is about that particular invective that has taken on all that weight.    If a man calls another man a "dick," he means it pejoratively, and quite meanly.  A dick is a really annoying, contemptible person.    A woman who is called a "bitch," is being insulted broadly (haha) as well.    Yet these things you are not certifying as hate speech, the way the gay slur or the black slur is.

I know what people mean if they call a woman a c-word, and in my mind it's the same as "bitch" -- same sort of connotation -- but evidently I am wrong.  It's not even in the same league.

My prescription is let's stop trying to denigrate people by calling them the name of a group to which they belong, suggesting the group itself is unclean or bad.     If we do not like a lady, let us call her a schmuck.  Or, wait.  A dick!       


Gene - You're a happily married man, so I look to you for guidance since you both are very open minded. Do you think its inappropriate to send a close ex a goofy text message sexual in content (not suggestive) and not a forward, written by one's self? My spouse doesn't think its okay - no matter how much I assure them that nothing would ever happen nor do I want it to. What is your thought on this subject.

I think you know my answer to this, which is why you are seeking it.    Spouses do not own each other's thoughts.   Spouses should not censor.    

I think my real question is why this is even a question, and the answer might be that -- though you deny it -- you are intending this communication as a come-on of sorts.  Or at least a flirtation.  

"pillar of the community who fantasizes about raping children. I contend that if he never does it, he's a fine man, and not a perv. " No, he's still a perv - a very big perv - but he's also a very strong man who should be commended for his willpower and control.

I think this question could be, and probably has been, debated for hours by philosophers.    

I do not want to touch your poll question with a ten foot pole. This is entirely a personal reason and I am only sharing it because it is 1:40 in the morning and I have been writing on my works all day before turning to view your discussion so I am at a personal exposed moment. I do not think there is anything wrong with the commercial but I do not dare say so. Why? Because I used to be a 55 year old workaholic who thought only about work and put work ahead of my personal life. I did so in part because I am not an attractive person so personal relations were never something that worked out for me Not that I didn't try, but somewhere after several decades of rejection I realized that relations were not something that would be a part of my life, at least for some time. I spent decades being the best I could be at work. I was often the first at work and almost aways the last to leave the office. I took work home. My life was my work. Suddenly, someone accused me of something so horrid that everyone including myself would be shocked at what I was accused. It remind me of the Lyndon Johnson story where he told aides to spread false rumors about his opponent. The aides protested that the rumors were not true. Yes Lyndon Johnson replied but Johnson just wanted to see his opponent deny them. Someone at work create a false rumor that I am into child pornography I guess when they don't see you with either a woman or even a man, people jump to their own conclusions. I was encouraged to take retirement based on these false rumors. I am still in shock as I realize there is no reward for hard work. There is only what people think of you that matters in the end, So, in sum, I do not find anything wrong with the commercial, yet in saying so, I fear the wrath of those who think ill of me. Therefore, I must condemn this commercial and anything of its ilk that exploits underage women. It is horrid, and should be removed from the airwaves immediately. I would never be caught in a position defending such trash existing. And that is my official position,

I am sorry you are so bedeviled by life.   Seriously.   You have burdened yourself with so many things unnecessarily.   Have you considered counseling?   It might help you.  

If this heps, you write well, even late at night, affected -- I am guessing -- by drink. 

Just FYI, If I had been smeared by a whisper campaign like that, I would not have meekly surrendered to it, nor, I think, would most people.  

Early in my life, a doctor -- sensing my hypochondria -- looked me in the eye and said, "Here's my prescription: You are a young man.  Life is enjoyable.  Enjoy it."   He was very wise. 

Gene, yesterday I posed a question to a friend of mine while we were chatting online in light of the fact that facebook posts activity on people's newsfeed such as articles they read, videos they watched, etc. I asked my friend what would she would do if facebook started posting every single thing she Googled. Well, my friend was in the shower when I asked the question and she answered me about 10 minutes later, freaked out that her Google activity had been posting from her facebook. I had to reassure her that NO, it wasn't, but what would she do if somehow it did? Then we started thinking of really embarrassing things to Google. Most of the time I Google people I know but wouldn't want them or anyone else to know. Some stuff we came up with: "How to pop labia cyst" "Pictures of ingrown hairs" "How to deal when your partner has a micro peen" Anything involving Googling an ex "Why do my farts smell like Chinese food" "How to administer an enema" "Storage wars erotic fanfiction" I know chatters can think of more!

Okay, I am laughing. 

If my google searches were made public, I might be fired.  I google a lot of very odd things, in some part because I start with something ordinary, keep getting sidetracked by interesting peripheral oddities, and wind up looking up the damnedest things that I never would have found, or thought to look for, in a direct search.    I was recently, for example, researching capital punishment and executions, which led to a sidetrack on what happens to the body during executions, which led to the term "angel lust," which I'd never heard up, which, after a turn or two I will not disclose because I don't want you going there,  resulted in my staring at something so horrifying I can barely get it out of my head.    What if THAT turned up as my google search?   

Hi Gene, Regarding facial recognition disorders, have you heard of celebropagnosia? My wife suffers from it. She constantly points to people we see at the mall, at the store, at funerals, etc., and says, "Hey, look, it's [fill in celebrity name]!" She doesn't really think it's her or him but she's convinced it's the celeb's double. The level of her disorder can be illustrated with this example: If she saw you walking down the street, she might say, "Hey, look, it's Geraldo Rivera/Rollie Fingers/Al Sharpton!" There is no cure.

It's a variation of prosopagnosia; in my case, I cannot tell celebs apart if they vaguely resemble each other.   Particularly blond men.   Movies featuring multiple blond men are enormously confusing to me.   Someone will get killed, then pop up in the next scene. 

Hi there, I always hear how the left hand is "unclean" because that is the hand that people use to wipe themselves. Is that true? Do people use the left hand, even if they are right handed? Have I been doing it wrong all these years?

I think this is true only in India.   I have never heard of using the non-dominant hand for this purpose, unless it were a cultural custom.   Why would one do that?   

Santorum may have a high IQ, but he says extremely stupid things that he believes passionately to be true.

I have said this before.  I say it again, with a wise and knowing intonation:  He is a man motivated almost entirely by fear.  Mortal fear. 

That's a brilliant idea! Everytime I get an enhance pat down I'm going to turn my head and cough.

Good.  Let's make it the turn-and-cough revolution.   A national movement! 

I didn't read it as "lack of a"; I read it as "lack ova"

Also possible.   Really interesting, however you cut it.  As it were.   

Okay, on that note I must leave, a couple minutes early, for a dental appointment.   I still have a few teeth left. 

Thank you all -- and see you in the updates. 

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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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