Chatological Humor: Monthly with Moron

Oct 02, 2012

Note to readers: This chat was originally scheduled to take place Tuesday, Sept. 25, but was postponed until Oct. 2 due to a travel emergency. After this chat, monthly chats will resume to the last Tuesday of each month. Thank you.

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Good afternoon.

First off, I would like to thank the three readers who sent emails seriously complimenting me on obtaining President Obama's college transcripts, and who remained certain the Lamestream Media will bury this important news.   Trust me, nothing more warms a humor columnist's heart than letters like these.

In other local cluelessnesses, George Will today makes the rather astonishing argument that the reason Mitt Romney is going to lose thunderously to a should-be-vulnerable incumbent is NOT that Romney is as unlikable candidate as we have seen in recent years who has also run one of the weakest campaigns in history.  Mr. Will doesn't actually deal with that idea at all.   No, the reason that Mitt is going to lose resoundingly to a vulnerable president is that WE ARE AFRAID TO FIRE THE BLACK GUY.     Yes, indeed.    This is about our adorable urge to be politically correct.  Link

 Mr. Will re-interprets history to conclude (I am not making this up; it is in the column) that the big step forward in American Civil Rights was not the falling of the racial barrier in 1947 when Jackie Robinson integrated baseball, but the falling of the racial barrier in 1978 when the Cleveland Indians felt free to FIRE manager Frank Robinson.   What an adorably White view of civilization!  Mitt would love this view!  He likes to fire people!   The key here is understanding that the entire history of race relations is not about black people's feelings -- it's about white people's feelings.

But the most important news of the day results from a correspondence I had with Christopher Manteuffel, Rachel's big brother.    Chris is something of a polymath -- an expert on many arcane subjects, including the art of warfare.   As a docent of Washington's Air & Space Museum, he also knows quite a bit about space toilets.    Chris schooled me on this, and it led to a rather astonishing realization. 

Toilets in space stations and space capsules resemble those familiar porcelain objects in your home, with a few notable exceptions.   Among these is that they have a substantially smaller hole upon which to place your bottom.  That hole is for pooping only; peeing is separately accomplished, by the placement of vacuum tubes (with cup-like ends) upon your personal private apparatuses.   But pooping must be done in the hole.    (Here is one Russian model; they're all pretty similar.  Note the small round hole. )

Now, here is where things get particularly interesting.  

In your toilet at home, you probably are unconcerned with whether you get a good "seal" between your buttocks and the seat; so long as you are reasonably positioned (not a hard goal to accomplish, even for the very drunk) gravity alone prevents mishaps.  Indeed, the hole is so large that for most of us -- even in this lard-butted society -- a "seal" is impossible.   In the space toilet, however, a seal is ESSENTIAL.  You see why, in zero gravity.   You see very well why.   So, just to make sure, NASA has installed little cameras inside the toilet bowl, looking up -- linked to a TV screen in front of you -- so you can check out the integrity of the seal, and make any necessary adjustments before poopage begins.  (Some bootlegged footage of this must be worth MILLIONS to Hustler.)

Why am I mentioning all of this?  Because of a humor insight I have had.    It would definitely be more difficult to be a successful astronaut if you have a flat butt.  You need some padding there, to assure a seal.   Which is why…


We should call them "asstronauts."

Thank you.  

Finally, on the eve of the first big debate, I would like to link you all to the greatest gaffe in the history of presidential debates, a mammoth brain fart by Gerald Ford, from 1976.    What I find particularly interesting here is that Max Frankel of the New York Times really bent over backwards to give Ford a chance to back off.   But he didn't!  He doubled down!   While lamely name-dropping The Pope.   Link

I'd like to alert you all to an appearance by Stephan Pastis, creator of "Pearls Before Swine," who will be at Politics and Prose in Washington at 1 pm on Saturday, Oct. 6, talking about his crummy (read: more commercially successful than mine) comic strip.     I will be out of town, so please, in my stead, ask him to explain how I once advised him to drop the Crocs, and how seriously he took my advice.    This was actually my second stupidest piece of advice; I also once advised a friend of mine, Dale Maharidge, not to write a book updating Walker Evens's "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men."   I explained how boring and inaccessible such a book would be.  He ignored me and won the Pulitzer.

And in conclusion, please take Today's Polls.   I am particularly fascinated by the many of you who Do Not Believe In God, but sometimes pray to Him anyway.  

Let's go.  We start at noon.

I understand that we share a birthday which, fortuitously, falls on your postponed chat day although I'm MUCH younger, but still hot. (Not really on the MUCH.) So, many happy returns Gene!

Thank you.  This will serve to represent all the many posts noting that today is, indeed, my birthday.   Number 61. 

Note:  What does "many happy returns" even mean?  

I think I have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: Unlike many people, I found hitting 60 to be oddly reassuring.   The explanation is inextricable from my neurosis:  I am insanely competitive; if I died tomorrow, I would no longer feel a failure at the art of living long.  I won't have died "young."  I win!

What kind of person even has this sort of thought?  Exactly.  It is dysfunctional thinking.   

Sob. Richard Thompson and his Otterloop family will be sorely missed. The comments in Comics Riff were all sweet and very touching, but I have to say the Lio tribute in the Sunday paper was rather moving. And surprising - Dddn't expect that. Anyway, I am sur RIchard knows his fans are thinking of him, but please pass along how much we wish him all the best in his health battle!

I will.  I thought the Lio Tribute was doubly great, because in addition to the homage, there was rather vicious criticism of the tired old crap that ISN'T going away anytime soon.  I love how he drew them as sleazy and lazy and dirty and boozy. 

Meanwhile, Tatulli is getting oddly...soft!  Did you notice Sunday's homage to Crockett Johnson's Harold and his purple crayon?   Harold was in turn copied after Crockett Johnson's own Barnaby , who had a fairy godfather only he could see, which was a precursor (I am convinced) to Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson, who was a big fan of Richard Thompson's. 

My boyfriend just loses it everytime a liberal politician uses the concept of fairness to justify an economic policy position. I think he sees governmental intervention to make citizens' lives more 'fair' as a juvenile and/or naive concept, and envisions a group of inept and self righteous bureaucrats doleing out people's hard-earned tax money like elementary school playground equipment. Our parents (and life) teaches us that life isn't fair, so the use of this word in speeches by democrats, for him, seems whiny. For me, the word is not so loaded, but I see his point. 'Fair' is weak and emotional. But I do believe in governmental social programs for their own sake, not just because preventative measures are usually less expensive than emergency measures. So, oh crafter of language, how might I justify this position that I have without uttering the word 'fair' and therefore spinning my political discussion with my boyfriend into an argument? Can you think of a way?

Life is not fair; why is it not a legitimate purpose of government to help level the field a little -- to make things a little more fair?

Some of our laws are designed to help smaller, weaker people against physically stronger, larger people, so it is not a jungle out there.  Is that wrong?

Your boyfriend is a putz. 

Where's your genius grant?

This is in reference to the fact that my feature-writing colleague, David Finkel, just won one.  Just like my movie-writing colleague David Simon did last year.   I am not in the LEAST envious.  Does anyone know how to make a noose? 

Do you count football superstitions? I maintain that those that pertain to sports are half-serious half-joke. We all know that Your Team won't even know that you're wearing your lucky sock, but you wear it anyway because damn it the last seven times you wore it, Your Team won. And the one time it was dirty and you couldn't wear it, Your Team lost. I am new to true football fandom. Oh, I've been loosely following the sport since childhood, but it was only last year when something clicked and I *understood*. Now I look forward to the games as eagerly as my husband. We're Ravens fans. His superstition is that he MUST do push-ups every time the Ravens score. (And since it is the Ravens we're talking about, you have to wait to make sure there are no flags and you actually did score.) If he doesn't do this, the Ravens won't score again that game. This has a logical problem, of course, since there will always be one set of push-ups that somehow don't trigger a score before the game ends. He knows this but he must do them anyway. Normal push-ups for field goals, elevated push-ups for touchdowns. Double for scoring off interceptions and fumbles. He recently had surgery that prevents him from doing push-ups. The first time post-surgery when the Ravens scored he looked at me expectantly. "On the floor," he said, "Give me 20." Oh HELL no! We went back and forth for the length of the commercial break. He was starting to get very upset. The push-ups must be done in order to satisfy the Football Gods. We won't score again this game if I don't do 20 push-ups! THIS MUST HAPPEN. Finally I gave up and did them, but only one normal push-up per point, which is about the extent of my abilities anyway. I mean, Gene, I couldn't let us lose. (We didn't). For the record - Atheist.

Wow.  You are wonderful lunatics. 

Cait Gibson wears Giants undies for all games.   

Courtesy of Link

This is superior.   I am always amazed by a certain phenomenon:  Sometimes, bad art is better than good art.   This art is perfect for this. 


Oh, be alert:  Bad language, but it is writtten not spoken.


The previous line reminds me: We should have the optional right to spell certain words with a a third consecutive consonant, for emphasis.   As in, "Show me where it is Writtten..."   That should not be considered a misspelling. 


OK. I am sold.

Thank you.   Okay, I have an additional point to make.  It is about the media.  It is not good.   

Fox is disgusting, but we all know that.   They distort. 

But I accuse the lefty media of distorting this election, too, and doing so in a craven fashion.  Contrary to popular belief, the lefty-leaning media do not skew coverage to advance the candidate they support.   Anyone on the inside knows this.   We are also NOT manipulating the polls, which would be insane: We don't want to be proven wrong afterwards.  But we DO skew coverage to keep up the illusion of drama, because drama is what gets people consuming your product.  

So we get articles like this one from yesterday, which is quite typical of much recent coverage: 

"Two days before the first presidential debate, a new national survey indicates a very close contest between President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney in the race for the White House.

"And according to a CNN/ORC International poll, neither candidate appears to have an edge on the economy, which remains the top issue on the minds of Americans and which may dominate Wednesday night's debate on domestic issues in Denver.

"Fifty-percent of likely voters questioned in the CNN survey, which was released Monday, say that if the election were held today, they would vote for the president, with 47% saying they would support Romney, the former Massachusetts governor. The president's three point margin is within the poll's sampling error."
This is completely bogus.  It would be defensible if there were no electoral college, and the winner of the popular vote was the winner of the presidency.   But the fact is, as the media is FINALLY beginning to acknowledge, Obama is way ahead in the states that count, the states that will swing this election.  This thing is not close.   It is not at ALL close.  But that makes for weak enlines and voter apathy, but of which are bad news for CNN.   Or USA Today.   So they don't give it.  


Why is it that "double down" has become the hot phrase, so that even you have now taken to using it?

Well, I think because it is very apt.  A fine analogy, from card playing.   Blackjack, right?  You double your bet.  All or nothing.  You think you have a winning hand.  

Is this in lieu of further buyouts for employees? Organ harvesting on the side.

This is in reference to the Wapo having bought up a private hospice company.   

It's a little disturbing.  You don't want to think it's because the Post wants to get moe skilled at end-of-life decisionmaking. 

What question would you ask at the debate? I would ask if they plan to continue authorizing the assassination of American citizens without a trial and if so how they justify that legally or even just morally.

I would go the other way: Ask inane questions, to see how they'd handle em.    I'd ask how much money'd they demand to sit for two minutes in a tank, naked, completely covered by cockroaches.   And would it make a difference if they were allowed to have a snorkel. 

When the unthinkable happens, when the space toilet-asstronaut seal is imperfect, the resulting free range pooplets have an official NASA name: Escapees. I find this hysterical.

ER, theY wouldn't be droplets.  They'd be turdlets. 

I asked you this question a while back but I guess it got lost in the flood. Some months ago I came across the wish list of someone I know who is enough of a public figure to be googled regularly. I noticed that there were some soft porn videos on his list, and a few keystrokes easily revealed that he has bought several of them in the past few years. I am not a close enough friend to mention this to him, but it seems like it's not something that should be hanging out there in public, and I'm sure he has no idea. What to do, if anything?


Also, I have never understood "soft porn."  

If you liked the 12-ball puzzle, perhaps you would enjoy the greatest logic puzzle I've come across, the blue-eyed islander puzzle: On a certain island, there lives a population of 1,000 islanders who share a peculiar religion. According to their creed, discussion of eye color is strictly taboo, as is gazing upon any reflection In other words, all of the islanders remain completely ignorant of their own eye color. According to strictly-followed tradition, should any islander discover her own eye color, she would leave the island by canoe the following day at noon. As it happens, the island is made up of 900 brown-eyed islanders and 100 with blue eyes. One day, a tourist stops by the island. At a feast, in front of the massed population of islanders, he says "It sure is nice to see blue eyes in this part of the world." The islanders promptly throw him in the volcano for breaking their taboo. Will any islanders be forced to leave the island based upon the tourist's proclamation?

So he is looking out at 1,000 people and simply notes that he sees some blue eyes?   I see why he is put to death: He has "mentioned" the taboo topic.   But I cannot imagine why he has informed any individual islander about his or her eye color.  Have you inadvertently left something out? 

Was your Pulitzer Prize for the article about kids accidentally left in cars? It was wonderful (and awful at the same time). Is there a nice dinner for that or anything? It seems like there should be.

I have two.  The second was for the children.  The first was for the story about Joshua Bell.   And yes, there is a nice luncheon, the greatest feature of which is that THERE ARE NO ACCEPTANCE SPEECHES. 

Oh, Dr. Gene, do hemorrhoids ever go away? I've been waiting four years since the end of my last pregnancy, and the buggers are still there. Do I need to have surgery to fix it? I am 41, female, and hot, of course, except for the fact that my glass bowl is protruding from my body.

Anonymity is what makes chats great. 

"The grisly peanut" is what Tom Wolfe called a hemorrhoid. 

You should not be suffering with this.  Surgery might be necessary, but I think it seldom is.   You need to see a proctologist.   You are too beautiful and elegant to be worried about this. 

An absolutely perfect example of this is Hyperbole and a Half. And she writes about her dogs: Link

I was hoping someone would say this.  No, Hyperbole and a Half is not bad art.  It is extremely good art.   You could not draw Hyperbole and a Half.  You could probably draw the other one.  Hyperbole and a Half is the work of an exceedingly gifted artist. 

You've probably heard about this already, but I and several folks I know had tech problems with last week's chat; the questions and answers never loaded, and we could not submit. (It seems to have been browser related.) But I am surprised that you thought that the decline in posts was more attributable to "everyone's on vacation" than "maybe there's a tech glitch somewhere." Don't you know how much people love you? (Well, hott women love you; men just want your attention, and possibly to scoop up some leftover hott women.) Or is it that you are so baffled by technology that, unless you don't see it failing, you assume it always works?

It's mostly the last thing.  Yes, last month was a Total Disaster.  I think part of the problem in my understanding it was that those who could not get through to the chat also could not get through to us to tell us about it. 

I recently received a parking ticket (at the AAEC Cartoon Death Match, which you helped jury.) The meter read "2 hour parking, 9:30-6:30, unlimited parking 6:30-9:30" and I fed the meter to cover well past 6:30. It was pointed out that unlimited does not mean free. Three-part question: a. Am I a dope or what? b. Is this a blatant ploy by the city to trick people? c. Want to chip in on the 25 bucks (you were great at the show, by the way.)


I am always of the opinion that Washington Parking people are trying to screw us all.  They get no benefit of the doubt from me.   Especially here.  I don't even know what "Unlimited Parking" is supposed to mean.  If I were you, I would fight it. 

I thought for sure that Gov. Romney's biggest campaign faux pas would be when he told George Stephanopoulos that "middle income" meant $200,000 to $250,000 -- AFTER George had said, "So what is middle income, $100,000?" I thought comedians would have a field day. But they basically ignored it, and a few days later it was dwarfed by the 47% story. Why is this? Is there something unfunny about middle income? Or do the nation's humor intelligentsia also not know where the median income lies?

I actually believe the media has gone easy on Mitt.  

Hi Gene- Since you alerted me to the expression "shanda for the goyim" I've been on the lookout for "shandas" of various stereotypes. Here's one for the files. Link


Worst case of suicide I've ever seen, if you know what I mean.   

She accidentally backed through two backyards! 

A while back you asked to hear from a handicapped person re. etiquette on use of handicapped toilet. My husband is severely handicapped, is in a wheelchair and must be assisted in the toilet stall. Because America does not (unlike England, say) have unisex handicapped toilets I always take him in the women's room. If there is a line, I always assume someone will have taken the handicapped stall--why should we get to _not_ wait when everyone else in the bathroom has to? If all the stalls are available, I sort of hope folks won't use the handicapped one, but even then, the longest you will wait is for one person to use it and vacate it. Once people see us waiting, the handicapped stall is always left open for us to move into. Which I really appreciate. However, handicapped parking spaces--that's a whole 'nother thing--and I WILL fix healthy people who park in them with as evil an eye as I can muster. Also, anyone who has a hangtag left over from their mother-in-law's hip replacement that they are still using to park in the handicapped space--I firmly believe if there were a God you would have been struck down by now. For goodness sake, celebrate the wonderful action of your hips and feet and legs moving together to carry your body over the ground--what an incredible pleasure, what a gift it is......

Thank you.  You seem more than reasonable.  You seem wonderful.   One of the reasons otherwise decent people seem to be willing to take handicapped parking spaces is that there always seem to be so MANY of them unused.   As I said before, this is by design, to make sure the handicapped ALWAYS get a space.  Seems to me there should be a better system in place that does not waste so much space, but I confess I have no idea what that would be. 

Speaking of wasted space, what REALLY bugs me is when there is a broken parking meter that you are not allowed to use because it is broken.  The hell with that: If the city cannot keep its meters inatact, it's THEIR fault, not yours, and those meters should be free-for-all until they are fixed -- an actual incentive for repair.  

Between the anniversary, that pizza guy getting creamed on Yelp because he hugged Obama, the election in general, and everything else, I would rather talk about poop. Also, I have an actual problem. My son is five, and flatly refuses to poop in the toilet. He's been peeing in the toilet since he was three, and never an accident. He will go put on his own diaper. He doesn't tell me when he's filled it, though; I have to chase after him like the world's most perverted bloodhound. We have tried big rewards, sticker charts, M&Ms, other children as examples, and "you will sit there until you poop." NOTHING works. I even tried "well, sorry, there are no more diapers," upon which my once-a-day man held it for six days. His pediatrician now has him on something that prevents him from creating a crap diamond with the mighty power of his colon, but all we accomplished is that now he leaks a little until he gets the diaper. Fun. He is normally very articulate, and has stated that he's not scared and he wants to go, but he can't seem to explain why he won't use the toilet. Without getting gross(er), I have tons of physical issues as an adult related to my constant holding it as a kid and I want better for my kid. The doctor is out of ideas. The hell do I do now?

I am too far removed from this to have a valuable thought.  Any more recent parents? 

I'm not superstitious, and I don't believe in god, but I still pray to him occasionally. This isn't because I really believe s/he will help, but because I used to be religious and the habit is still there when something makes me upset or nervous. Mostly it comes up when I'm in actual danger. I also do some superstitious things, like having a special meal on New Years Day for luck, but that's more about following a family tradition.

I've said this before, recently I think, but the only really superstitious thing I've ever done involved 9/11.   I waited ten years before again ordering fried eggs and fish for breakfast. 

Gene: I miss the days of Funny? You Should Ask and Tuesdays with Moron when the chat used to be funny. You've gone off on this political/religious bent over the past year or so and these chats have become less and less fun. The simple answer is for me to not read them anymore but I long for the days when I used to laugh aloud while reading your questions and responses.

Thank God!  My plan finally worked!   I've been ruining the chats for a year or more in the hope of getting you to leave.  We can now get funny again, folks. 

I subscribe to the New Yorker so I know that the hitman one is a ringer. It is better than the others but only because they were so bad. The captions the week before were good; it varies.

I agree with you totally.   The New Yorker results so vary in quality week to week that I deduce it is a flaw of the judging.  They don't reliably know what is funny.   I found these particular results particularly terrible; yes, the hit man one was mine -- I actually sent it in -- hoping to be credited for subverting the form and not referring to the coffee at all.   I'd love to know what all of you think is remotely funny about any of the others.   There's no decent joke in there! 

I agree that it looks incredibly likely that Obama will win decisively. However, I REALLY REALLY can't relax until the debates are over. Obama will no doubt do just fine, but I'm worried that he will misstate some little thing that all the wingnut SuperPACs will seize on and frantically wave around -- like a dog with a chew toy -- in their attack ads from now until Election Day, and that this will actually make a difference to some undecided voters. What do you think?

Okay, ask yourself this: Which man is more likely to make a serious mistake?

Good.  Relax, for Pete's sake. 

You are like Tom the Butcher, with the Nats.  Every day he emails me to shares his fears and seek reassurance.

Stop being so wussy.   

Would you rather die young but leave behind an incredible body of work (like, say, Freddy Mercury) or die old and leave behind nothing (the oldest person in the world who lives in Nepal -- I forget his name).

Dan and I did a whole week of B&C based on this question.  I think, as an atheist, my answer might depend on whether I had an inkling, before death, just how influential my work would be.   Freddy did. 

We know your allegiances lie elsewhere, but you've lived in DC a long time. You've got to be a little excited for the Nats.

I'm very excited by the Nats.   I am a fan.   Intellectually, i LOVE what they've done this season.   But they can't compete with my heart; my childhood allegiance.  Nothing can. 

So, I'm a journalist and feel the same about the supposed "lefty media." It's complete crap - for the most part. But I do feel strongly that MSNBC is just as bad as Fox. And really CNN, but more because they'll just sensationalize anything they can. I've reached the point where I refuse to watch any of them. I really don't get people who complain about Fox but then gobble up whatever MSNBC tells them - it's the same problem!!! Both networks are horribly skewed, it's just that you agree with one but not the other.

I mostly agree.  But you know, the intellectual quality of what Rachel Maddow does, compared to O'Reilly, is dramatically higher.   The Foxies appeal to the heart; MSNBC more to the mind.  

But what about the fact that during election day, Kerry had Ohio all wrapped up in the afternoon? How did that work out for Kerry? If the exit polls can't even get it right on election day, why should people believe them with a month to go? (I'm hoping they are right in Obama winning big. But I just don't trust them all that much.)

That was different (believe me, I was in the middle of it; we in the media all KNEW Kerry had won); that was a one-day glitch.   That's precisely what this is not. 

This seems like an excellent use of rich farmland. Link

Very nice.  Lotta fertilizer in use, too. 

"those meters should be free-for-all until they are fixed -- an actual incentive for repair" Nope, no way this tempts me to jam the machine, that would be wrong. Perish the thought.

Yes, I do see the problem.   It's a fair point.   

The drawing clearly conveys that the speaker is jittery. The reference to "decaf" is funny because it's undercut by the jitteriness: clearly the guy has been drinking regular and thinking it's decaf. Bonus points for the specificity of the name "Dolores," which is old-fashioned and therefore funy.

But that's just .... weak.   

Hah! I started out reading his column and, disgusted and amazed, closed it. His argument (if it could be called that) is just incredibly preposterous. Came to your chat instead.

It's actually a very shewdly put together column.  The man can write.  But that argument... 

I agree the islander puzzle is about the best one out there. The poster has stated it correctly, but might give a hint: The islanders are all excellent logicians.

Hm.  Well, I will think about it, but remain suspicious of the setup.  You need to be a specific islander who has been specifically informed of your eye color, right?  

I am expecting our first child and I can't shake one thought: I don't want my husband's parents anywhere near this kid. His parents live only an hour away and see themselves being VERY involved. They are the sort who give each other Glenn Beck books for Christmas and are quietly racist in a white, suburban kind of way (and his father is not so quietly sexist). Admittedly, Scandinavian folks would find me to be quite liberal, let alone your average American. Having raised two kids, do you think my fears are justified or will a little grandparent bigotry roll off the kid's back?

It's insignificant.  There will come a time when the child is old enough to be affected, and that's the point at which you get to explain to the kid why grandpappy is a horse's ass on this subject. 

Do they love the kid?  Good.  Keep em around. 

We had an old couple do daycare for Molly from the time she was 1 to two and a half.  They were wonderful sitters.  The old man taught her a little piano.   He was a hellacious bigot; nothing sloughed off. 

Gene, you mentioned in your column that while in college you practically majored in narcotics. This got me to wondering: while you have often discussed '60's music, you've never discussed that other icon of that era -- did you have '60's-style posters in your room? Anything like a Hendrix shot, or an Easy Rider 3x4-foot color shot?

Nope.  I was never much of a pop-culture guy.  My main takeaway was, and remains, Dylan.  And Leonard Cohen.  and my damned 'stache. 

The parking garage adjoining the building where I work is quite large, so to avoid having to remember where I park everyday, I go to the top and park in the same place. However, I do have another reason for this habit. I am a research scientist (and atheist) and several years ago, I had the good fortune of obtaining several research grants. This occurred just after I started parking in a spot just a few places away from my old spot. In order to maintain my success, I now feel I have to park in this spot everyday. I understand this is completely irrational, but I do it anyway. This is especially strange because I spend most of my time preaching to people in my lab that the formula for success with their experiments is thorough planning and preparation.

This is in reference to today's poll on superstition, which was occasioned by this recent Barney & Clyde. 

Would you please post the results of the reading on the toilet poll. I can't get to them from the archives.

Haley, can you find these and post? 

I am still trying to understand how you prepare corn. You say you remove the silk before cooking. Don't you have to remove or at least open the husk to do that? This is not obvious. Then how do you get the husk back on? Do you tie it in some way? And if that is the case, what is the harm in opening the husk at the store, as has been customary as long as corn has been sold?

I misspoke a bit.  I remove the tuft of hairy silk and crud -- but only what you can pull off the closed ear. 

You've been saying Obama by a landslide since this race started. Now, I believe you.


My initial argument was simple: He is  superstar.  Superstars win.  Now, you can add the ineptitude of the opposition 

In May 2011, Gene, you said, "I strongly believe that the instructions were clear, if tacit: Dead." Do you still believe this? I thought so too at the time and now feel it may have been that one or two Seals came to the conclusion, pretty much on their own, that capture, transportation, trial, etc. weren't worth the trouble. I'm not really comfortable with either possibility.

Hm.  Why are you not comfortable with it? 

I remain certain that these guys understood the goal was not transportation, with all the attendant risks, and trial, giving Al Qaeda a global voice for as long as it lasted. 

Here's the thing:  Israel was right to capture, not assassinate, Eichmann.  The goal there was putting him on trial, establishing, clearly and in excruciating detail (to quote Hannah Arendt) the banality of the evil that was Nazism. 

No such goal made sense with bin Laden; he was a mass murderer of innocents -- a trial would have have given a voice to those would would legitimize his motives.  Did we really want to do that? 

I live in Eastern Market, and I'm looking for a good watch repairman, as my pocket watch needs a new battery. (Yes, I know, a real pocket watch should be wound and not battery-operated -- but if I find a good watch repair place, I'll have reason to buy a wind-up pocket watch too!) Any suggestions for a fellow Capitol Hill dweller...?

Well, to be honest, anyone can competently put in a battery.   Just... anyone.   I can.   For more serious stuff, you have to go to Bethesda.  Ecker's Clock and Watch Shop.  Edward Compton, prop. 

Are you saying you have a Sep. 25 birthday TOO? I remember the priceless expression on my parents' face after we learned about human gestation in health class in school, and that evening I informed my parents that I'd counted back 9 months to... guess I know what Dad gave Mom for Christmas the year before I was born.

No, today, Oct. 2.   My mother's was Sept. 25. 

Key nerd fact in my life:  Rib and I married on Aug 28, 1980.  Molly born June 7, 1981.   

I'm 43, am currently undergoing chemo for breast cancer, have lost all my hair, am puffy because of steroids, am exhausted all the time--definitely feeling not hot and I suspect that it will be a long time before I feel hot again (if ever). But your chats make me laugh, so here I am. Onward!

Well, I happen to think you are looking pretty fine, even now.  But when you are fully back, you will be smokin. 

I'm stunned that 68% of your poll takers say they do not believe in God. A recent story in "The Week"[/url] says that about 4% of Americans admit to hard-core atheism and another 19% are skeptical of all faiths. Even with a conservative slant on the categories, that's a huge overrrepresentation of non-believers in this chat. I feel sort of lonely, as a fan of both Gene and God. Is this how conservative Gene fans feel?

That number seems wrong, to me.  But there it is.  FWIW, I feel nothing but mild envy for sane, non-extremist believers. 

The only way any islander can find out his or her own color is if he or she knows exactly how many brown-eyed and blue-eyed islanders there are. But no islander can know this, since discussion is forbidden.

But even with that knowledge, how can the islander know for sure about him or herself?  I am completely befuddled.  I can't help feeling this was insufficiently explaint. 

So what was the travel emergency? Nosy readers want to know. Hope it wasn't something bad-

It was simply that a trial I was at lasted longer than I'd expected. 

I have no firsthand experience with potty training, but could the mom with the kid still in a diaper start by having him poop in the diaper while he's sitting on the toilet? He's still wearing the diaper, but also getting the feeling of sitting and pooping?

I like that!

Something from the real world. How would you change a faucet washer? How do you unclog a drain? Which is better for general carpentry, a jack plane or a smoothing plane?

Yes, that's good.  I remember many years ago Clinton was able to say approximately how much a loaf of bread and pair of jeans cost.   Bush 1 was not. 

Happy birthday, Gene. Love your formerly pantsless producer, Chatwoman. Mwah xoxoxo


I am hoping this is Chatwoman, and not someone saying he or she loves me and Chatwoman.   You are missing a comma after Love, which is unlike Chatwoman. 

If you ARE Chatwoman, you remain always in my heart.

Uh - I'm confused. My recollection was that there were issues with the voting machines in Florida and Ohio in 2004. What do you mean by your response above?

Ah, sorry.  No, the exit polling data (which newspapers got early in the day, because they paid for it) showed a Kerry victory.  The polls were bady wrong.  In newsrooms across America, around 2 pm, people were readying front pages about  Kerry win. 

I'm no expert, but my first thought on hearing about this boy is that there is too much family attention on his poops. It's totally understandable that the parents are stressed out about this -- I do get that; I'm a parent, and I know this would a really difficult situation. Maybe the topic should be dropped. The boy should be allowed to use diapers, and it will be up to him to decide that he's done with diapers. It there are negative consequences to using diapers at the age of 5, then let the boy experience them without the parents getting worked up about it. If he doesn't tell you his diaper is full, carry on, let him stink. At some point he'll realize that there's a better way.


Gene, some time ago you wrote a wonderful response to a woman who was blogging harshly about parents who forget their kids in hot cars. I remember being moved by your response, and actually wanted to show it to someone I know who is being equally harsh about a different difficult issue (and one that this person may not know I was right in the middle of some years ago). I've searched the Post's site, but I can't find it. Can you link to it? Thank you!

Need more info, but the original story -- search for "Fatal Distraction" -- had a whole section on why people react so harshly.   

Why do I feel like Obama is peaking too early, that the Democrats will all get complacent and somehow Romney sneaks in at the wire? Does this feel like McCain / Obama or Bush / Gore to you?

I don't want to belabor this point, because it is more self-serving than a modern gas station, but I was the first pundit anywhere to predict an Obama landslide, in March 2010.  In his latest prediction, Nate Silver has Romney's chances at ... fifteen percent. 

Obama's chances in North Dakota are higher than 15 percent! 

Gene, I've been struggling. I was raised Jewish. I did Hebrew school, Mel Brooks movie marathons, Shabbat dinners with grandparents -- the works. I spent my whole life being Jewish and I was pretty happy about it. Uh, until I realized that I don't buy into the whole "God" thing. Can I still call myself a Jew even though I dropped the religion? I can't seem to stop the self-deprecating humor, random bursts of Yiddish, or escape the vague sense that I should be calling my mother more. -- Jewish atheist (maybe?)

You're describing me. 

I consider myself "Jewish."    I am just not theologically Jewish.   I don't "practice" being a Jew, except in the sense of honing my cynicism and giving myself ample opportunities for neurotic guilt-ridden behavior.   

I have a good friend who does not believe in God, but is a practicing Jew.   She and her family go to temple.    She has taught Saturdayschool.    It's all about embracing identity, customs, the intellectual nature of Judaism, maybe, a template for ethical behavior, and having a sense of belonging.   While not buying the God stuff in the least. 

Interesting, no?  

BUT IT'S NOT LIKE PRAYING TO A GOD IN WHOM YOU DO NOT BELIEVE.   Explain yourselfs, pollltakers. 

Okay, my friend just pointed out that she mouths and sings the prayers in her synagogue, which means she is technically praying to a God in whom she does not believe -- however the words don't mean bupkis to her -- she doesn't mean 'em literally -- so it's not actual prayer. 

I fully understand that you have things to do, but when you don't update on Tuesdays it makes my day sadder. Also - I love this so much and I thought you would too. If I weren't already voting for him: Link

this would seal the deal.

The most wonderful part of this is what I can now say:  These recordings by Barack Obama, readings from his book "Dreams from My Father,"  are Not Safe for Work.

Hey poster, you are not alone! I have almost fallen for that 'unlimited parking' bit twice now. I've actually gotten a block or 2 away when it dawns on me that 'unlimited' does not equal 'free', but just means that for those 3 or 4 hours you are not limited to 2 hours only. It's stupid and definitely a ploy by DC to trick you into a ticket. I also love how you usually have to try at least 2 of those parking pay machines before finding one that works. DC parking is the worst.

Well, actually, Bethesda parking is the worst because they stalk you.  They wait near and expiring meter.  Bethesda is the worst parking trap I know of.  

What were you charged with and what was the verdict?

The charge was murder and the verdict was guilty.  You will be reading more about this anon. 

And on that note, farewell.  See you all in the updates! 

In This Chat
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.

Click here for links to Gene's past chats and updates.
Lynn Medford
Medford is the editor of Sunday Style and The Washington Post Magazine.
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