Chatological Humor: Monthly with Moron

Jan 29, 2013

Join Gene Weingarten Tuesday, Jan. 29 during his monthly chat with readers.

Take today's polls:
- National Championship poll: males | females
- Inaugural poem poll

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.

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Good afternoon.

Please take today’s polls, because we are going to be discussing them right quick, particularly the one about the inaugural poem, about which I have very strong opinions that I shall be delighted to share with you so you better understand why you are so very wrong about everything.   Aren’t you lucky you have a famous genius to help you navigate this rocky shoal called literature?

- National Championship poll: males | females
- Inaugural poem poll

I’m a little upset that Obama chose Richard Blanco over me to deliver the inaugural poem.    I anticipated the call.   Like Blanco, I, too, had prepared three poems from which he could choose.   Here they are.

1. My Inaugural Limerick

There once was a man named Barack

Who ended the war in Iraq,

Helped the downtrodden,

Killed Mr. Bin Laden

Then calmly cleaned Mitt Romney’s clock.

2. My Inaugural Double Dactyl

Higgledy Piggledy

Barack the president

Lib’ral America’s 

Current heartthrob.

Not that I’m bitter but


He kicks my butt and that’s   

Not his day job.


3. My Final, Serious Inaugural Poem

It’s time for new beginnings,

The torch, it has been passed.

The future is tomorrow,

Our challenges are vast.

Bold leadership is needed.

America stays strong.

We must remain unflagging

In righting every wrong.


Our best days are ahead of us

Tough choices must be made.

Let us always dare to dream.

We shall not be afraid. 


We will bear all burdens gamely

God bless the U.S.A. !

(If we lead the world in anything

It’s the political cliché.)

Okay, lessee.   It’s been a while since we’ve chatted, and I have a few matters of old business that are interesting.    I have just corresponded with a woman with a truly remarkable name.   It is an all-purpose anti-aptonym.   She is “Jane Gentleman.” 


As fellow connoisseurs of the aptonym, I think you all understand the importance of “Jane” – the single, most generic female name -- and why, say, “Sarah Gentleman” wouldn’t be nearly as good.     It is the same reason why “Johnny” is so important to the wonderful name of the 1950s utility outfielder named “Johnny Dickshot.”


Anyway, when I commented on her name, Jane wrote this:


I no longer ever leave my real last name when I phone in a restaurant reservation, because we end up with a “Who’s on First” interchange:

     Me:  I’d like to make a reservation for dinner tonight for two people at 7pm.

     Restaurant:  That’s fine, and what is the name, please?

     Me:  Gentleman

     Restaurant:  Yes, okay, two gentlemen for dinner at 7pm.  What is the name please?

     Me:  Gentleman

     Restaurant:  Yes, I understand, two gentlemen for dinner at 7pm.  But what is your name, please?



And when I used to eventually get through to them that my name was really Gentleman, they would still do a double take when I arrived at the restaurant and wasn’t a gentleman!  So now I use a pseudonym.

Two people wrote in asking my opinions on matters of taste.

Citing the current controversy over whether rape (as subject matter) can ever be funny, Brian Midson asks if this is an okay “rape joke.”

… and I say it is.    I suspect you will agree.   What’s interesting, though, is that it could have been deeply offensive with just a little tweak.  If the last panel simply had said “so I raped her.”   Same joke, but at no remove.

Similarly, a woman named Ruth wrote in with the following conundrum:  

Please see the following ad, which is a real ad for a rugby match between Scotland and South Africa.  I saw 3 of these ads, featuring three different Scottish rugby players, all similarly clothed.



As a late-30s, professional, third-wave feminist woman I had the following reactions to this ad:

1. (mouth hanging open, absolutely no drool whatsoever because I would never, ever, ever admit to that, and the complete absence of any logical thought in my brain.)

2. Later:  This is the smartest ad campaign EVER.  Get women to want to go to rugby, and life will be better for the men who want to go anyway!  Because honestly, this makes me want to go to a rugby match, for which I have no idea what the rules are, or whether they play in 10 degree weather.  They really should do this kind of ad campaign for baseball.  People really don't realize how fit some athletes are under their baggy shirts.  I mean, an ad campaign with Michael Morse, Ian Desmond, and Danny Espinosa shirtless?  I need to send this over to Nats PR just as a public service.

3.  Later:  How would I feel if this was an ad campaign with a bunch of fit female (adult) athletes in their sports bras?  Would I think it was liberating, and respectful of their fitness and abilities, or would I think it was exploiting them sexually and demeaning them ("come see our hot babes kick the ball around")?  I probably would think that it wasn't necessary to show them in their sports bras because they deserve respect for their abilities, not their looks, and because women historically have been sexualized.  Do I think this ad demeans the rugby player?  Well, I didn't know those guys were so fit under their rugby shirts, so this actually raises my opinion of pro rugby players generally.  But am I just trying to justify the fact that I really like to look at this man?

So this is my question:  Am I simply a hypocrite for loving this ad campaign and thinking that it is absolutely brilliant, while also believing that I would not be entirely thrilled with a similar campaign involving women?  Is there any justification for my conflicted views?

So that’s the question.

I have two reactions to this.   The first is simply a question: Do women actually typically get that turned on by a mere photo?  I thought this was the purview more of guys, as attested to by this here story by the excellent Monica Hesse, about pictures of penises.   

In fact, let’s have a little instapoll right here on this subject ONLY FOR WOMEN. We all know the men’s answers. Okay, ladies only:


Anyway, as to Ruth’s question, I have an answer but I’d like to hear yours, first. 

Okay, let’s go.  Chat begins at noon sharp.


If you are experiencing trouble with the submit button on the polls, please clear your browser's cache. Thank you!

I submitted already, but maybe it got lost in the shuffle. Why is it a "lede" in a newspaper article instead of a "lead"? I always thought it was a "lead" as in lead story. What the hell is a lede?

A lede is the first sentence or paragraph or opening anecdote of a story.  It has always been lede to make it distinctive from, say, the metal or the verb.    Do you know what a "graf" is?

Okay, does anyone out there who is not nor has ever been a journalst or the spouse of one,  know what a "graf" is?  Has this term as yet been adopted by people outside the j-trade? 

To me, it's relevant that the girlfriend is Miss Alabama. In other words, she's a professional good-looking person. The comments would have been out of line if she was a lawyer or a nanny or, well, anything else really. But when your job is to look good I don't see why it's improper for others to talk about that aspect of you. It's what you DO. I voted that there was nothing wrong with what he said, and yet I'd have suggested a firing if the woman had nearly any other occupation.

Hooray.  Exactly the right answer, in my opinion.   Plus, there's more.  

Musburger was commenting about Miss Alabama, who competed in a contest to be pretty.  She told the world she wanted to be seen as pretty.   Moreover, this was happening at a FOOTBALL GAME.   With cheerleaders in skimpy costumes.   Moreover, he wasn't discussing her in a particularly leering fashion; didn't mention her body.  He said she was, and I quote, beautiful.   Then he made a completely appropriate joke, mildly criticial of the BMOC culture, saying that the quarterbacks get the pretty girls.   It was kind of funny. 

I give him a complete pass, as it were.   And I condemn the knee-jerk, hypocrticial reaction of his bosses.   Did they not film the cheerleaders, too. 

It's irrelevant to me, but for the record, Ms. Alabama later said she was flattered and not at all offended. 

I'm willing to take the heat for this.  Please feel free to pile on.  But I am right. 

By the way, Musburger was not at all chastened.   In the next thing he broadcast, a basketball game, he signed off by noting that his female co-host was looking smokin' hot. 

Yes, there are women who get turned on by mere photos, and yes, by photos like Anthony Weiner's (circling back to Monica Hesse's point). I actually found Monica Hesse's article stereotypical and sad--it reinforced the notion that we're some kind of higher beings who shudder with disgust or roll our eyes at the baseness of men and "ew! icky!" pictures of penises. This idea that women are somehow more noble or complex in our desires or more turned on by male kindness and housework (Really, Monica?!) is kind of Victorian. Some of us don't need "more", as evidenced by the fact that a good percentage of women watch and enjoy porn.

Okay.  I have to say that judging from answers I am seeing, and the poll results, you are at least slightly atypical.  

I found your chat update equating slaves to guns to both be wrong and accurate at the same time. The comparison is wrong because the action of owning another person requires the owner to excercise violence against another human being. The action of owning a gun does not require any violence; the action simply has the potential for violence at a later date. These two actions are so far apart morally, that the comparison is invalid. However, I suspect that the only way to remove guns from the US will be a Civil War which was the only way that slavery could have been removed from the US at that time. That makes your comparison somewhat reasonable, though you did not draw this conclusion.

Wow did you misinterpret what I was saying.   All I was saying was that, like slavery, guns have become an addiction.   And like all addictions, the addict cannot think reasonably and rationally about his problem.   So you have people making insane arguments for why it is okay. 

There once was a man named Barack His re-election was kind of a shock He raised taxes...I'll pay Tried to turn marriage gay And now he's after my Glock

Not bad!  

Would-be car thieves gave up, because they couldn't drive a stick shift ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) - A Corvette owner said he was almost carjacked at gun point, but the would-be thieves ran away, because they couldn't figure out how to drive his car. It was just after 11 o'clock at night, when Randolph Bean was waiting for his wife to get out of work. That's when two men took him by surprise while he was inside his bright, yellow Corvette. It was parked outside Orlando Regional Medical Center in Downtown Orlando. He said the two came from behind. "So, barely caught them in the mirror." According to the police report, one of the men had a gun. "He started yanking on the door and made me open the door. He kind of flung it open and dragged me out and demanded that I get on the ground... face down, so I couldn't look at him of course." Randolph, 51, said one of the thieves pointed a gun at him while asking how to use the car. "They apparently couldn't start it. I had to tell him four different times to push in the clutch, because it's a standard transmission."

Laugh all you want, but this is one of the reasons I advocate stick shifts.   They're almost never stolen. 

Gene, as a straight 30 yr old woman, I have to tell you that this set of pictures did as much for me as I imagine what men like looking at if you know what I mean? Well. The pictures rendered me basically speechless. He's clothed and most of them are close up pictures of his face. I don't know what it is. The tanned skin, the manly beard, the crinkly lines around his eyes, the cigar (which I normally find disgusting), even that snaggle tooth. Ohhhhh my god. I kept looking at these pictures for days and I still do. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh these pictures do to me what NSFW pictures could do to other people!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Also I looked at other pictures of this actor without the beard and with a more clean cut look and was not impressed AT ALL.

Okay!   This is fun.  

As a college-aged female, I have absolutely no issue with what Brent Musburger said. I mean, were you watching the game? It was a blowout, so predictable, it was frankly boring. They needed something to talk about, because you can only talk about how dominant Alabama is for so long. The camera went to McCarron's girlfriend, so Musburger talked about her, and the little he did know about her, which is her looks. He wasn't rude or crude, he was complimentary. If the situation had been reversed (say, looking at the beach volleyball player's husbands in the Olympics) I have no doubt that they'd comment on the attractiveness of the spouses if they were attractive, and especially if they'd put themselves into the public arena based on their looks. I have no idea why people are so worked up about this.

Thank you.   A woman emailed me just before the chat, horrified at the poll results, linking me to truly awful statistics about global rape.   I just think that's comparing apples and chewing gum.   No, apples and toilets.   Apples and "the." 

Okay, let’s talk about poetry a little bit.

No, I don’t like Richard Blanco’s piece very much.  It’s got some evocative images and nice uses of language  -- “pencil-yellow school buses,”  arrangements of oranges that are “begging our praise,” the “impossible vocabulary of sorrow.”    But it is small and unambitious and makes a single, unremarkable, not particularly profound point: We’re all in this together, under the same sun.  Same soil.   Same dreams.   There is no “I” in team.  Okay.  Right.  Gotcha.

I’d call its biggest failure obviousness, its second biggest, utilitarianism: It’s dutifully doing its job, shoehorning in a mention of Newtown, “I have a dream,” the American dream as seen rather clunkily through himself, etc.  I believe a poem that mentions itself had better be more skillful than this one.  (Robert Frost pulled it off in the inaugural poem he wrote for the Kennedy inauguration.)

So, I call it “fair.”   Not completely inept, not without skill, but unambitious.  Mostly though, what I do not call it, is a poem.  It is prose, well-written, evocative prose.   I don’t say that because it doesn’t rhyme.  I say that because it doesn’t make you think.  It doesn’t cause you to put a part of yourself into it, and that is what a poem – any poem -- does.   A poem is always bigger than it seems to be.  

Here is a poem.   It is by Ezra Pound, titled “In a Station of the Metro.”

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;

Petals on a wet, black bough.


That’s it.  It’s a poem because it’s pregnant with meaning beyond the words.  Wikipedia has an excellent analysis of this:

By linking human faces with petals on a damp bough, the poet calls attention to both the elegance and beauty of human life, as well as its transience. A dark, wet bough implies that it has just rained, and the petals stuck to the bough were shortly before attached to flowers from the tree. They may still be living, but they will not be for long. In this way, Pound calls attention to human mortality as a whole - we are all dying. This is the essence of the poem.

The word “apparition” is considered crucial as it implies both presence and absence - and thus transience as mentioned previously. It gives human life a spiritual, mystical significance, but one that we can never be sure of.


 You don’t need that degree of symbolism for something to be a poem, but you need something that is not completely straight-ahead, straightforward.   A poem asks a question, leaves something to the imagination, makes you think.

This is “And the Moon and the Stars and the World” By Charles Bukowsky:

Long walks at night--

that's what good for the soul:

peeking into windows

watching tired housewives

trying to fight off
their beer-maddened husbands.

Interesting, no?  You can't just take this at face value.  He is doing lots of things here, including making fun of effete nature poems; it's about Schadenfreude, and the bleakness of the human condition.   A very fine analysis is here.

Poetry can get even MORE direct, but always there is that element of, hm.  

William Blake:

“Love seeketh not itself to please

Nor for itself hath any care

But for another gives its ease

And builds a heaven in hell’s despair.”

So sang a little clod of clay

Trodden with the cattle’s feet.

But a pebble of the brook

Warbled out these metres mete:

“Love seeketh only self to please

To bind another to its delight

Joys in another’s loss of ease

And builds a hell in heaven’s despite.”


See?   With Blanco’s poem, you end it and say, okay, thanks.   Gotcha.  With all these others you end it and ask, okay, what’s just happened here?


Finally, I don’t elevate poetry above prose, per say.    Prose can be just as elegant.   Lincoln’s second inaugural is.    So is this, by Raymond Carver.   It is generally presented as a poem, and he WROTE it as a poem, but I don’t think it is.  It’s just great prose:

So early it's still almost dark out.

I'm near the window with coffee,

and the usual early morning stuff

that passes for thought.

When I see the boy and his friend

walking up the road

to deliver the newspaper.

They wear caps and sweaters,

and one boy has a bag over his shoulder.

They are so happy

they aren't saying anything, these boys.

I think if they could, they would take

each other's arm.

It's early in the morning,

and they are doing this thing together.

They come on, slowly.

The sky is taking on light,

though the moon still hangs pale over the water.

Such beauty that for a minute

death and ambition, even love,

doesn't enter into this.

Happiness. It comes on

any early morning talk about it.

unexpectedly. And goes beyond, really,

Oop.  Please ignore that "per say."

For me, it depends on the man. Random beefcake, all abs and biceps? Naaaaah. But I do have a computer stuffed with hundreds of stage photos of my kinda goofy-looking rock star crush, for Important Reasons. I think a lot of women are the same way: Our tastes are narrower and more tied to what the man in the photo REPRESENTS. In OP's case, that's a respect for athleticism and the physical prowess that built that body. In my case, it's the way a composer moves to his own compositions, arms built up by years of plucking an instrument, that sort of thing. It's still a sexual feeling, but it's a sexual feeling with a narrative.

How the hell can anyone read things like this and not understand that women are a higher life form? 

This is a topic that I have thought about a good bit. Whenever the subject of pornography comes up the discussion only ever focuses on women. As a gay man it is men that I am looking at. And there is never any thought given to men in porn as far as I can tell. Maybe we figure that men in general are all a bunch of exhibitionists so they enjoy being the center of sexualized attention, porn or otherwise. I guess maybe society thinks that men are the ones who hold the power so they wouldn't exhibit themselves this way unless they wanted to while somehow a woman must have been forced. I also think this is a brilliant ad campaign for the reasons stated by your correspondent.


I don't know if this link will work for those not on Facebook, but if you're going to talk about naked guys in advertising, check out the ad for the Chalk Hotel in Brisbane, Australia.

I just burst out laughing.   I am in love with this ad campaign. 

My reaction to Musburger's comments was that they weren't that big a deal, primarily because the woman he referred to is Miss Alabama. Musburger made a woman, who was regionally famous for being beautiful, nationally famous for being beautiful. If she had been, say, an assistant U.S. attorney or a Ph.D. candidate in a very competitive field, or an engineer in the natural gas industry, (basically any private citizen who might be struggling to be taken seriously as a young, attractive woman), I'd have felt differently.


I have some history with the man in question. That history could be really loving his acting skills or his music or his reporting skills. But if I see a naked photo of a really sexy man who I haven't seen before I'll think he's hot but he won't get me wet.

There really is an elegant pattern to these answers. 

Today's Hax question involved a lady upset her 50-year-old boyfriend still had a Playboy subscription. Hax's answer was 'How quaint.' Should the fact a middle-aged (or older) still looks at nekkid wimmin a dealbreaker?

This question is obviously written by a woman. 


My wife asked me to define dry humor, and the best I could do was say it's humor that makes you chuckle, which seems inadequate. How do you define it? Also, I'm relatively new to Get Fuzzy, and I 'm wondering: has a woman ever so much as appeared in the strip?

Last things first:  I can recall no woman.   And very few men.  I have always seen Get Fuzzy as a mean-spirited parody of Garfield.    This is Jon, gone crazy, living with a dog and a cat and imagining they talk to him.

Dry humor is humor whose engine is understatement, rather than overstatement or exaggeration, which are the things that define most humor.  Dry humor uses sarcasm, but not heavyhandedly.  It is generally delivered deadpan.   Puns are part of dry humor, but a kind of degenerate part.   The British like their gin and humour dry.    

Dry humor can be very funny.  I would say virtually all of Monty Python  -- everything except the physical comedy -- is dry humour.   

Gene-have you seen this video on why gay marriage should be allowed? Hilarious ... and probably eerily true: Link

This is excellent.  Warning: Language is NSFW.  Images are fine. 

Every male watching this wants to know if any / how many of these actors are actually lesbians.  I vote zero, but that's probably wishful / delusional thinking.  

What IS it about Tom Hardy that only makes him attractive to a certain group of women when he's looking/doing a certain thing? Those pictures do nothing for me. However, if he at any point uses the Bane voice, OOMPH.

I'm inclined to just sit back and let the ladies talk amongst themselves.  

If Romney had won, I promise I would have attributed, with 100% certainty, that the reason for your absence was his victory. Thanks for showing me otherwise.

Wait?  What absence?  I am here.  

For what it's worth, that first limerick also functions as an...ahem...tongue-twister of sorts. Might be why you didn't get chosen.

I could have delivered it flawlessly.  I have a trick for tongue twisters.  I never fail on them.  

Mid-40s, journalism background, now work as a web content person. I have used "graf" in email, and no one knew what I was talking about, thought I was referring to a visual element.

Interesting.  I feel I am disclosing a trade secret! 

Graf = paragraph. 

Man, some of these are really great. I'll bet at least one of the guys who used a calligraphy pen had somebody else do it.

I came of age with Kathryn O'Hay Granahan.   I think I fell in love with her signature. 

The problem with your retirement plan is that, while you may indeed be a dick, you're no Dick Armey.

This is my reference to my column from Sunday.  I have to say, I expected some whining from the right, but have gotten very little; I think even the right is mortified by this.  

Do you favor an amendment to the US Constitution requiring that all poems delivered at inaugurations must rhyme?

No, but that they actually be poems. 

By the way, I should have mentioned that merely being a poem does not mean it is a GOOD poem.  I preferred Blanco's prose thing to what Maya Angelou oozed out, filled with dinosaur imagery, in 1993.  

I really like this stanza: "Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling, or whispers across cafe tables, Hear: the doors we open for each other all day, saying: hello, shalom, buon giorno, howdy, namaste, or buenos días in the language my mother taught me -- in every language spoken into one wind carrying our lives without prejudice, as these words break from my lips." I like the thought of all kinds of people all over the country being kind ("opening doors for one another") and the way the different people are invoked by the way they say hello. I think it is aspirational, of course, ("without prejudice"), but it is a nice image all the same.

It's fine, but it's not a stanza.  It is a paragraph. 

Am I the only one surprised by the poll results? I would have thought the men would have been tougher on Musberger than the women. I figured the men more likely to show a degree of political correctness, if not chivalry, and the women more likely to be non-plussed by it all. If he were 37 instead of 73, I wonder if this would have made a difference in our opinions.

Me, too!  I was gobsmacked.   In my experience in these polls, men bend over backwards to be Sensitive, knowing their votes will be compared to the women's.   

I think on this one, rationality has intruded.   

I thought the poem was OK, a little clunky and a little on the nose, but not bad. I'm curious what you thought were the best and worst lines. I really liked "One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes tired from work."

I mentioned some of my favorite lines.  You know what really didn't work, IMO?  The very end.   Naming a constellation?  Am I missing something? 

Musburger didn't really do anything "wrong" other than come across as the dirty uncle who stares at your girlfriend a bit too long when you bring her home for Thanksgiving. He was appreciating that she's pretty -- he didn't say anything sexual -- and just embarrassed himself by sounding a bit too enthusiastic and taking a bit too long to make his point. Remember, the game was really boring. He had to talk about SOMETHING.

It didn't even seem that long to me.    Wow, she's beautiful.  Quarterbacks get beautiful women.  Kids, learn how to throw a football.  

You know what's creepy?    THIS is creepy.   Chris Matthews macking on Erin Burnett.   This makes my skin crawl.     I would have suspended him, if I'd been his boss. 

This one is not apparent. Gerald Bos was the chief financial officer of the Dairy Farmers of America milk cooperative. "Bos" is the genus name for the cow family.

Oooh, sophisticated.  I like it. 

It's not offensive, but it's not funny either. The problem is that, although sexual intercourse is involved, rape is a crime of violence. That means that the bar is very, very high. You have to find a joke that talks about violence in a funny way and yet is also distinctively about rape (as opposed to being about murder; our TV shows us so many real and fake murders that the bar for murder jokes is much lower). I'm not saying that there are no funny rape jokes; I'm just saying this one wasn't one of them.

I disagree.   This had SOME humor.   The do-unto-others turnabout.   But it wasn't a knee-slapper. 

I do understand the argument that ANY use of rape in proximity to humor is perforce wrong.  It's just that this was an anti-rape joke.  It was decrying rape.   

I am a heterosexual woman. I answered no, I never get turned on by near naked photos of hot men. I may linger over them with appreciation, but the reaction is more aesthetic pleasure than physical manifestations of "turned on."

Thanks.  Others?

Men are wired differently, as the $50 billion porn industry can attest. 

Ruth's dilemma can be explained in one word: asymmetry. The sexualization of women in advertising and other media is so pervasive and casual that we should be on our guard about it, and be suspicious of media that try to sell us sexy women instead of a quality product. The sexualization of men, on the other hand, is still sufficiently unusual that we haven't been overwhelmed by it. If there is a silver lining, it is that advertisers are learning that heterosexual women are just as likely as heterosexual men to feel that atavistic desire for a photo of a sexy person. Well, almost as likely. (BTW, Ruth, don't beat yourself up for staring.)

EXACTLY right.    There ain't nothing wrong with these ads, IMO, precisely because men are not typically objectified.  They are not victimized by society in that way, the way women are. 

I said its major weakness was "Other." I don't believe the problem is an unremarkable use of words and imagery, but an exhausting overuse of flowery words and imagery. Too much, too much. I know it's supposed to be aspirational, but yeesh man. Put away your thesaurus. Every word doesn't have to be a metaphor. (But maybe I'm too much a plain speak gal. I have the same criticism of Tom Seitsema's writing, with its insistence that dishes are lashed/shot through/enlivened/electrified with [insert euphemism for an ingredient here].)

Hm. I didn't see that as a problem here, but I'm a flowery blowhard.   I still regret using "cupidity" in the Josh Bell story.   

Please tell me you have something pithy to say about the farting federal employee? This story is right up your alley, so to speak.

I have steered clear of this only because everyone else has been all over it.  

My main question is: Who would report a coworker for farting?  Would you?  I think I would do everything to avoid having to do that. 

BEING the farter would, however, be a great way to angle for having your own office.  

This reminds me, though, of a fine piece recently sent to me by multiple sources noting that both Ben Franklin and Jonathan Swift were obsessed by farts.   Which is not surprising.  As I have noted before, farts were the first jokes.

There is an interesting point that Franklin makes: He says farts are considered rude but spitting is not.    

Why does it not slope down gently toward the wall so that the soap isn't always sliding off into the tub? Why is it not perforated with a few holes to let the soap dry out? WHY, GENE, WHY?

This is a great question.  Um, you know... you should do something with this idea. 

I've always driven a stick shift but recently hurt my knee and think knee/leg problems must explain why 'standard transmission' is not at all standard anymore. But *everybody* can't have hurt their knees, right? Is this secret knowledge that I've somehow missed? Btw, yes, I think driving a standard transmission makes a man seem manlier. (I'm female.)

I contend it also makes a woman seem womanlier.  I like competence. 

As a woman in her 20s, if I had a boyfriend who had a Playboy subscription, I would probably shame him for having an airbrush fetish. Also: "Why can't you just look at porn for free on the internet like other men do?'

Indeed.  I have zero idea why any stroke mag sells anymore. 

I don't trust myself to judge poetry. I just don't really like any of it. I appreciate the skill and artistry, but I just don't really enjoy it. I'd LIKE to like it, much like I'd like to enjoy sushi and jazz and single malt scotch, and believe me, I've tried (all of them), but now I've given up and have stopped trying to enjoy these things. I did like your limerick, though. That was pretty good.

Thanks.  You know, I really understand not getting poetry.  It takes a certain type of sensibility; a feel for meter and a patience with imagery.  I think plenty of smart people just don't get it.   Like me, with dance.   Not a clue. 

I just drove to a different state to buy the car I wanted with a manual transmission. Couldn't find one locally. Gene, they are getting harder and harder to find. And this was a sort-of sports car, yet! Makes me sad.

One of the worst moments of my life was when I read that the new VW Beetle (about 1992, I think) was being ordered more in auto than stick. 

Demand is very low, unless you can strip the car.

Right, but why is demand low?  BECAUSE NO ONE CAN DRIVE 'EM.

1) You are right, they get stolen less since many do not know how to drive. 2) Perfect car for teens as it is virtually impossible to text and drive at the same time while driving a stick shift. Makes it so much safer for all involved. If parents were smart, they'd all get manual cars for their teens because having the talk about not texting & driving is as fool proof as that talk about waiting to have sex till they are older and not drinking until they are 21.

Hmmmmmmm.  I think the risk is that they'd still try. 

how do you pull back from a lonely person? She/he IMs me, texts me, etc., and I can't figure out how to make him/her stop, as I have to be in contact with him/her regularly for professional reasons and need to be signed in to the IM screen for professional reasons. It's not just the frequency of contacts, but the using a work platform to whine about work, texting me when I'm not in the office, help! (this is a kind of Hax, kind of the Post's work advice person, kind of Monica question, but I am interested in your take!)

You know, IM is an interesting thing: Unlike email, it is intrusive.   I only have about, hm, 10 people who I will answer, because they are close friends and have the right to interrupt.  Others I just won't answer.   It's no ruder than what they're doing to me.  

There was nothing about her attendance at the game that was related to her "Miss Alabama" title, so I don't see how her being a professional pretty person is relevant. She was there as a girlfriend supporting her boyfriend. I heard Brett's comments live and while they weren't exactly offensive, he went on far too long. I thought the apology was appropriate.

Okay.  Go back and watch the video, though.  The amount of time spent on her was maybe 6 seconds. 

The Hax question re: the 50-year-old guy with the Playboy subscription amused me. So, the issue isn't that he has a Playboy subscription; it's that he likes to look at photos of nekkid girls. Better yet, it's not that he likes to look at photos of nekked girls, it's that she KNOWS he does that. So, if he gets rid of the Playboy subscription (which, at this point, he probably maintains out of intertia and/or nostalgia), but looks at his nekkied ladies on the Internet, is that OK? Is it is OK if she doesn't find out? Must he limit himself to non-hard-porn nekkid photos? Sheesh. Ladies, in my humble opinion, the VAST VAST majority of Internet-equipped guys in this age look at some level of smut on the Net. I would certainly acknowledge that guys who spend HOURS looking at hard-core smut on the Net probably have a problem. But I can't sign on with the notion that looking at ANY photo (or video) on the Net that has a naked woman in it is an automatic threat to your significant other. The whole "Why does he need porn; he has me" thing is just a logical fallacy. Yes, I have you; I love/care about/like sleeping (pick the category(ies)) you. I also like looking at photos and videos of really hot women doing really hot things (or, at least, being naked). My arousal capacity is not so limited that looking at porn causes me to say, "Nah, you don't get it done for me, because you don't have a perfect body, and you're not bending your legs behind your head while wearing a sailor hat." What say you, Gene?

I would weigh in, but this is a hot button issue that many, many women feel more passionately about than I do.  Carolyn once told me porn was the single biggest problems in relationships.   

My daughter volunteered to be the one to evacuate the rectum of their cadaver as no one else in her anatomy group wanted to do it. I don't have a picture of this but I thought of the picture of your daughter with her arm up a cow's rectum when my daughter told me this. On the other hand, one of her group was "ebullient" about dissecting the guys genitalia, and yes it was a female. For some reason her group of 4 was all women even though the sex ratio at her med school is 50/50.

I love this chat.   

With all this Redskins talk, I had to go back and re-read your article to refresh my memory of why I hated Dan Snyder. What ever happened with that lawsuit? I don't usually follow the Redskins but love RGIII and agree with you about Shanahan. You can't expect a kid to say he shouldn't play.

The think I liked most about this takedown of Snyder is that it went so viral that for a week it was the first hit when you Googled his name.  It was my version of "Santorum."  

I've recently written a novel that has been purchased in a very modest deal. Truly modest -- my advance is about enough to renovate my kitchen, if I skip the fancy gas range. I was okay with that, though, since I didn't even know if I could finish a book, much less get an agent and a well-respected publisher. The problem is my family and friends think I'm about to become a millionaire. They keep using phrases like, "In the movie version..." and "When you quit your job..." and they're not joking. I've tried to explain that this book deal is not life changing; it's not even year-changing. There's not going to be a movie deal; it's not going to get a massive display at Barnes and Noble. Family and friends assume I am just being modest. Their hyped view of my "success" has started to make me panic about the whole thing. Before the book is even released, I feel like a failure for not living up to expectations. Maybe this is more of a Caroline Hax question, but I feel like her advice will require too much emotional maturity from me. I hope you do not take that as an insult. It is a compliment.

The field of book publishing is a bonfire of the vanities.   Truthfully.    Very few books -- and virtually no first novels -- ever return a penny over the advance.   And publishers generally structure the payments (a third up front/ a third on submission of the manuscript / a third on publication) so that you never even really notice you've received any money. 

Tragically, on some level, even if they don't admit it, every writer secretly harbors a hope that he or she will be the exception, and never have to work again.   The only people that ever actually happened to, to my knowledge, are Salinger and Harper Lee. 

I have a new book proposal out, so am in the middle of this nightmare.    

Having said all that, congratulations.  You will have a book.   And once it is remaindered, you will be able to buy back a lot of them at really cheap prices. 

Speaking of successful books, though, Dave Barry's new one, Insane City, is spectacularly good.  It's funny and it's deep.  Buy it.   Dave will be at Politics and Prose this Friday evening at 7.    I'll be there, too, I think, watching Dave be funny. 

My apologies if I've submitted this several times; I seem to be having java problems. Anyway, Gene, you and a few of your colleagues and a few of the chat types have all written about losing your old dog and how hard that is. I'm going through the same thing with an extra added twist: We brought home Gertie, a mastiff puppy, during the holiday break. A big girl -- 20 lbs at three months and destined for 160 or so. Sweet, bright, happy to snuggle up and happy to terrorize our 7-year-old coonhound. But she could never keep down food. Long story short, she had a condition called "megaesophagus," in which she had a restriction in her esophagus that prevented food going through, which got distended and damaged every time she was fed. Possibly correctable through surgery, said three vets, but very poor prognosis, especially for a giant breed -- they'd never be able to keep up with the calorie demands, and would slowly starve. We were able to keep our sweet baby pup kind of fed by blending canned puppy food with water, but that diet caused her to lose control of her bladder and bowels. Still, she was spirited and fun and sweet and funny. Even when we drove her to the vet and I rubbed her jowls and told her I loved her as she went to sleep. I know it was the right thing to do (the vets told me it was the right thing, but only after the fact -- they wouldn't make a recommendation one way or the other) and I've done this with dogs I've had previously. But they were all old. And as they always say, you knew when it was the right time. But this one didn't feel like the right time. We had her two and a half weeks, and we were all crazy in love with her. It's been four days and I have been caught by grief on a daily basis for about two weeks (since diagnosis). I dunno if I want absolution or something, but it's just different. Anyway, I'm as deeply grieved as I was when my dog of 15 years died. It's just that this time, it doesn't feel like the natural order of things.

Many years ago, we had a Great Pyrenees.  Her name was Annie.  She was a fabulous, beautiful dog, but there was something wrong with her.  She would get unaccountably vicious.  She once bit my wife, badly, in a frenzy while trying to get at another dog.  She made Harry's life miserable; he was scared of her.    We spent $1,000 on a Great Pyr dog trainer.   We tried to give her away to a dog farm, but the fact that she was a danger to other dogs was a deal killer. 

She was a great dog, in some ways.  One of the funniest dogs on the planet.   She liked to put her two front paws in the toilet and splash.  

We killed her.   She was two years old and completely healthy.     But she was a danger.    The last straw was when she attacked Harry murderously. 

Now, this might sound dissimilar to your situation, but the bottom line is the same.   You don't kill people with problems, because they are people, and death terrifies us.   Death doesn't terrify dogs.  One minute they are there and the next they are not.    The only suffering and pain is yours, at having to do it. 

In my case, killing Annie was necessary.   In your case, it was a kindness; a dog with a poor quality of life is a dog that is suffering.   But in both cases you do it and know you did the right thing. 


Postscript:  Just now talked to Molly.   This is her specialty: Critical care of extremely sick dogs.   She said megaesophagus is "a terrible thing that we don't really yet have an answer for."  When it presents in an older dog it is often accompanying a different illness, and curing that illness sometimes improves the megaesophagus.  But when it presents in a pup, it is invariably bad news. 

Molly says it's not really a constriction or blockage: it's sort of the opposite: a neurological problem, making the esophagus go limp, like a bag.  Without peristalsis, food can't transport.   She says surgery is seldom even attempted.   Among the dangers are aspiration pneumonia. 

In short, you did all you could, and what you had to do.  


Why rape jokes aren't funny: it's not that rape is a horrible, violent, disgusting act -- it is, but so are a million other subjects that people make jokes about -- it's that it's a horrible, violent, disgusting act that HAPPENS ALL THE TIME. If you make a joke about eating babies, no one you're talking to is going to say, "hey, my uncle ate a baby"; but unfortunately, the same cannot be said for a rape joke.

I don't disagree.   The question is, should making a joke about how awful rape is, be taboo?   I don't see why.  I do see why some people say so.   I'm not my typical arrogant overly certain self on this. 

When your read a poem you like, check out the poet's collection from the library. You will only like one or two poems in the collection, but they will be humdingers.

Usually this is true.   Some people are just always good.   Billy Collins.  E.A. Poe.  Yeats.  

You can't assume Obama's rejection of you related to your skill as a poet. I am sure he thought your poems were better - but he's also heard your voice.

Good point!   Makes me feel better.   

To the person who wants to like poetry: try a solid intro to poetry class. I *hated* poetry throughout my schooling until, to fulfill a requirement thrust upon me by the department, I had to take "Introduction to Poetry" in college. The professor broke things down in a way that not one other literature teacher or professor had ever tried. I think more people would love poetry if they realized how large, how inclusive, and how varied it is. The textbook, which was really more like a tour guide, included all kinds of crazy examples. The editors must have worked very hard to include something that would resonate with each different type of person. I must dig that book up...

Or read Helen Vendler, who is quite good. 

One of my most humiliating poetry lessons came from Caitlin Gibson, a poetry major who pointed out that my online analysis of The Road Not Taken completely failed to understand the poem. 

I think the key difference between the parties is that Democrats primarily view the world through the lens of "want" the and Republicans view is "should". I realize this sounds pro-Republican but it really isn't. How much damage has been caused by the self righteous clinging to irrelevant dogma? And how much greatness has been achieved by people breaking the rules because? Of course there are plenty of examples of self-indulgent egocentric Democrats wreaking havoc and sincere conservatives putting the greater good ahead of their own interest. (None of the positives apply to any elected official of any party.)

Okay, I have no idea what any of this means.  Can anyone translate?

It does remind me of a thesis I have that I'm not sure if I ever shared.   I think the main difference between liberals and conservatives -- the true bottom line -- is in to whom you give the benefit of the doubt.    I like Obama.  I trust him.   When he says that Benghazi was an unfortunate situation but not malfeasance, I believe him.   The other side naturally assumes this is a gigantic coverup.   I disbelieved everything George W. did or said, because I basically considered him a dimwit and an incompetent.   The other side bought what he said.   So I see a war prosecuted on the basis of bad information as being a gigantic, unconscionable foreign policy screwup; the other side as an unfortunate but forgiveable judgment made on the basis of faulty information that everyone believed.  

"The Catholic priest busted for allegedly dealing crystal meth was suspended after church officials discovered he was a cross-dresser who was having sex in the rectory... " Under the circumstances, doesn't "rectory" qualify as a funny word?


You didn't just kill 'em with that joke, you ... 

One day you can drive an antique truck.

I find it a little mystifying why people don't learn to drive a stick, even if they don't have one.  It's fun, and you've gained a very usable skill.   (And because most people who can drive a stick eventually do.)

It's a way for people to invest small amounts in projects that appeal to them. For your disappearance, I'm in for $20.

Try to get a movement going.   

Gene, Help me out here, bro. Should people use their parking brake, even if they have an automatic transmission and are parked on level ground? THIS IS SERIOUS! HELP ME!

I have heard the answer is no, but I'm not sure why.  I always use my parking brake simply because I know that if I use it selectively -- if it is option -- I will wind up not setting sometime when I really should have. 

I doubt I am alone in this: why not enjoy the "magazine subscription" together? Or internet sites, movies, etc...

I think Carolyn would say that many women would find that competitively depressing.   Which is both wrong-headed and wrong, but still... 

This explains the popularity of liquid soap in a container with a pump.

How popular are they, really?

I think the part that upset me (a woman in her late 20s) the most was more the connection of how QBs always get the beautiful women and they are lucky to do so. As though that's the only quality in a woman that men would want. I'm sure it is for some men, but should society reaffirm that perception as a general idea for all men?

I would argue that Musburger was actually making fun of that ethic.  

The demise of Celebritology, got me to thinking about most favored Chatwoman. I did some googling and saw that her archive at Zap2it hasn't been updated since August. Is Liz Kelly ok? Could she come back to the Post as your chat sidekick once more?

Last I checked, Liz was very happy at a new job at the Palm Springs Desert Sun.     

You mentioned fecal transplants ages ago when talking about some forgettably named dude with an aptonym, but never got into the details of what a poop transplant was. Apparently a formal study now confirms that it is radically effective at curing certain stomach infections. Also, the historical version of this in China was called "yellow soup" and you didn't get the luxury of having a rubber tube to bypass your tongue on the way to your tummy.

Oh, I got into the details beaucoup.   His name was Dr. Aas, and this is one of my favorite columns EVER.  

I was all over this story years ago.  The NYT is eating my, er, dust. 

So is it "bury the lede" or "bury the lead"?

Lede.    You would bury the lead when you entombed the corpse of a mafia hit.  

My son held up his art ruler and I called it a "pica pole" and he asked me what a pica is. Felt very old then.

Clearly, you ARE old.   I have a pica pole from 1969.  

I don't think picas exist anymore, as a measurement. 

As a hetero woman, I have a serious love for a ginger rock star. This picture always makes me hot.  I assume it's because of what the previous poster said, the relationship between art and the artist. However, there's a split second in the opening sequence of Dexter where he pulls on his t shirt and it catches his lower lip. This causes serious "ooooooohs," even though I don't find the actor or the character remotely attractive. The loins want what the loins want...

Female porn is great!   You guys also find Anais Nin's writing   hot, right? 

My first response Sunday's Loose Parts was laughter, but then I wished the cartoonist hadn't used the wrong word in the punchline. Does he not know what a synonym is, or did he deliberately make an error in order to use a familiar word? Link

No, this is a mistake, clearly. 

They are sheep dogs bred to attack wolves and other predators. You seemed surprised that such breeding resulted in a dog who would attack other dogs.

I have known many peaceable Pyrs, including Charlotte, my neighbor. 

You said: "Carolyn once told me porn was the single biggest problems in relationships. " A few points: 1. I do not doubt Ms. Hax; I simply think the statement should be rephrased, perhaps more accurately, as "Porn is (in the e-mails she receives from women) the single biggest problem in relationships." 2. I would be interested to know how often Ms. Hax has received an e-mail from a man reporting that porn was the biggest problem in his relationship with a woman. 3. There's a cause/effect problem here. The relationship has problems/the guy's looking at more porn/the woman feels threatened. Is the porn the problem, or the symptom of an underlying issue? Or is it completely irrelevant, but it's an easy target for someone who's angry? 4. I don't doubt that there's such a thing as overuse of porn, or that overuse of porn can endanger a relationship. OK, now remove "porn" from that sentence, and substitute "work," "cocaine," "alcohol," "fantasy sports" . . . almost anything. You can overdo anything, and it's bad for your relationship. So, why is porn different?

I would argue that it is different because it saps sexual attention and energy. 

I just want to say that today's (1/18) Barney & Clyde is wonderful. Perhaps the best one ever (though I am a relatively new reader, so only have 6 months of comparison). For those of you who missed it, take a look.

Thanks.   I liked this one, which was another Horace LaBadie idea.    Oh, also, for those of you who read it on GoComics, here is Sunday's, which the website hadn't loaded:  ALSO based on a LaBadie idea. 

I was hoping you, as someone who was ballsy enough to walk into the hospital room of a public official and pretend you were a doctor to get that corrupt offiicial to fess up, might have some advice for me. I, too, am a young (although not that young) journalist, hoping to score a huge interview. A local doctor made national headlines several years ago for a crime he committed and his subsequent actions. I've written dozens of stories on the case. He's talked to no one, but I know he wants to for two reasons: 1) He's a narcissist. I can just tell it's got to be killing him to not tell his side of the story. However, he's facing hundreds of civil lawsuits, so he hasn't said anything. 2) He sent me a request last fall to accept emails from him (he's now int he federal prison system). I was stoked at first, thinking I would soon get an email from him, even if it was just to lambast me for all the stories I've written about him. But then he didn't send me anything! I've since sent emailed him several times, trying to get him to talk to me. I even told him we could not talk about anything before his arrest; he could just tell me about life in prison. I tried to stroke his ego by telling him I would be enthralled to hear about all the good works he's done since he was arrested (supposedly he started up yoga and mentoring programs while in jail.) Nothing. So, if this were you, how would you go about getting this guy to open up to you? The best idea I've had is to start emailing him every day, asking for his opinion on the news and asking how he's doing, but I'm also afraid he'd get annoyed at me and revoke my ability to email him.

Well, I was unsuccessful in getting Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald to answer my mail, and I thought I approached him cleverly, so what do I know. 

My advice: Get into his head; if he is a narcissist, he is narcissistic about something in particular.  Send one more email, stoking whatever that is.   Make it clear that it's the last time you are going to bother him, and then let it be.  

Since the reasonable thing is to limit Bushmasters, but the people who are most likely to join militias in the wilds of Montana (or open carry in Virginia) are already stocked up to the gills with mass weaponry, what is the best way to deal with gun violence?

I think its a long-term problem with a long-term solution.  Gradually erode public perception that guns are good, the way we did with cigarettes.  You need to change the culture. 

I can only speak for myself as a woman of a certain age, but men's genitals are a bit goofy, especially testicles. (Eww, I'm cold, let's scrunch up. Oh no, it's hot in here, let's dangle downwards a bit.) And unless the penis belongs to someone you are otherwise attracted to they are better tactically than visually. But as a signal of a fit guy, chests and backsides are very attractive. Very.


I need to run off to a meeting so I can't analyze my feelings on the matter... you can do that for me, based on my following observations. If this fellow is one of their stars, I might be inclined to watch, in a beauty-in-motion sort of way. Or perhaps it's the accomplishment that turns me on. But if the fellow from the ad was a hundredth-stringer sitting on the bench--even shirtless--I wouldn't be as interested. This probably differs from men, who I would guess would have no problem with the near-nakedness having little relavance to the actual event (hence, cheerleaders at NFL games).

Right.   Well, I think this is why women are more attracted to power than men are, by and large. 

It was long and meandering. If you are going to write a poem, you need to lean on the form's greatest strengths: brevity (using images as shorthand) and repetition (of figures, of forms, of ideas, of words). Blanco's poem did neither, and suffered badly. Being pedestrian was its second greatest weakness.

Right on both counts. 

It was like a goody two shoes civics lesson. 

On the metro this morning, I saw this ad for H&R Block: "On a scale of 1 to 10 for tax preparation, we're an 11!" I mean, I'm not usually moved to vandalism, but OH MY GOD if I had only had a Sharpie. "Why would I trust an arithmetically illiterate company with my taxes?" "THAT IS NOT HOW NUMBERS WORK / DID YOU REALLY THINK THIS THROUGH" "...So you're saying you're willing to fudge the results? Please, do my taxes!" etc., etc., etc., ideally until their copywriter resigns in shame. Civil disobedience is clearly the preferred option here, yes? 'Cause if you green-light this, I'm never leaving the house without a Sharpie again.

I would argue that it is, in fact, a subtle subliminal suggestion they will fudge your taxes.   I'm not sure this is an accident. 

I was going to vote for "obsession with self," but then I realized that at any event where Obama speaks, this poet would be a distant second.

Well, I suspect we disagree politically about many things, but, yes, I think Obama is pretty pleased with himself.   President, Nobel winner, best-selling author, multi-millionaire, at 51.  It's not like he should be humble.  

A few weeks ago there were some comments here about wives complaining about husbands but husbands not complaining about wives. In my almost 70 years and, so far, two wives, I've heard men comment about their wives precisely twice: one time in the army 40 years ago an NCO cleared out a locker room praising his wife's lady parts and one time an acquaintance recited his wife's infidelities because he knew she'd been complaining to my wife about his manifold failings. I can't count the times my wives have recited to me what their friends have said about their husbands' grooming on weekends, money management, general slovenliness, etc. I know my ex trashed me with friends and our children, and I assume my current wife doesn't hold back with her friends. I think there are many reasons for this difference. Most prominent are that men simply aren't that intimate with each other--it's less intimate to comment on the lady parts of someone you're not committed to than on those of someone you are--and in general men are dogs--women have a lot more to complain about.

My experiences are similar to yours, I believe you have correctly answered your own question.  I would add one thought, one that is perhaps less charitable to women.  I will couch this diplomatically.   I think women's tendency to confide in friends, which is an admirable reaching out and betrays a warmth and genuine interest in others that men so often lack .... I think this impulse SOMETIMES unbecomingly tramples on the expectation of privacy that I think a marriage or strong relationship should confer.    I believe that men are more likely to think in terms of teamwork and omerta -- what happens here is between us and stays here.    

I don't believe I have ever heard a man discuss the details of his sexual life with a wife or long-time girfriend.   Ever.  No friend of mine, however close and whatever grievance may be present.     

Please read this Slate article. I am a typographer and, even though I love you, your extra spaces after each sentence really drives me nuts when I read your chat. I say this as a hot chick who will only drive a manual transmission, please try to stop this practice. Thank you.

I cannot stop.   Seriously.   It is an addiction. 

I know.  I tweeted about this, begging women to keep things in perspective.   The cure is not worth the remedy. 

It was mentioned on the radio that the "Road Runner" comics are a farce. Coyotes run 40 MPH while roadrunners run 20 MPH. After all these years, we have been misled into thinking that roadrunners can outrun coyotes. Further, I have since learned that coyotes are unable to go to Acme stores and purchase anvils to try and drop onto roadrunners. I am really disappointed to learn this. I just hope other comics don't lower themselves to the level of using the falling anvil joke.


I never, however, felt that the coyote couldn't catch the roadrunner on foot.   He was ... wily.   He wanted to catch him with devices.   There were plenty of instances where the roadrunner came right up to the coyote and said Meep Meep.    Wily could have just scarfed him down right there.   He didn't WANT to.   He wanted his muhahaha moment. Classic error of the villain.   

I built a spring-driven, tabletop pendulum clock 25 years ago (i bought the works and built the cabinet). The pendulum length is adjustable with a screw, and the clock keeps perfect time - averaged over the year. In the summer, it loses about 2 minutes per month, and in the winter it gains about 2 minutes per month. Is this common/normal? I live in Minnesota, so my best guess is that seasonal variation in humidity changes the resistance the pendulum faces swinging through the atmosphere . . . . .

Do you keep your house at different temperatures in the winter and summer?  Heat lengthens the pendulum rod, making the clock go more slowly.   Cold shortens it, and the clock speeds up.   That's the brilliant principle behind the mercury pendulum.   Theres a column of mercury inside the pendulum bob.  The hotter the temp, the higher it climbs, redistributing the weight higher, to compensate for the longer pendulum rod. 

Very curious to hear your thoughts on the whole Aaron Swartz thing. I have been in the position of looking around at just about everyone I know, otherwise brilliant and reasonable and thoughtful people, and wondering how they can believe that (1) Stealing is OK if you really believe that you deserve to have what you're illegally taking; (2) Intellectual property is a joke (and most of my peers who hold this opinion are academics and artists); (3) A prosecutor is solely responsible for the suicide of a chronically, severely depressed individual, and should be stripped of her title or worse as a result. So, Gene, what's wrong with me?

Nothing.   But it's a huge tragedy.  

I need to know more about the case before I can tell you if I agree with you.    Many people evidently feel it should not have been prosecuted.  

What's up with the ramp in front of your house? Who's hurt, you, the Rib, or Murphy?

Mattingly, Molly's dog.  Surgery.   She'll be fine but is a hurtin' pup right now. 

The only rape joke that I've heard that was funny (to me) was the one by Louis C.K. If anyone else told it, it probably wouldn't have been funny. All in the persona, I suppose.

It had the same engine behind it: It was ANTI-rape. 

I do hope you are going to weigh in on a current topic that combines two of your interests: baseball and arcane details about American Presidents. How do you feel about the selection of Taft as the 5th mascot for the Nationals? I assume he was chosen because he's easy to recognize, due to his rotundity. Does this mean we are going to be treated to lots of fat-joke slapstick? I guess it's better than FDR in a wheelchair. Maybe.

I'm pretty sure it's about the funniness of fat, but Taft was the first president to throw out a ball, I think.   

How much tolerance level do you have for people who complain constantly, almost reflexively? If you are close to them, what would you do to try to help them - tough love (stop the complaining, I can't take it any more) or listen for 5 minutes each session only, and make it clear that's the time limit, what? What if it's your own mother? This is a lifelong thing, and while I suppose it is a symptom of some kind of depression she doesn't seem depressed, just self-absorbed and needy. It never really goes away. She will complain even if it's a beautiful sunny day, and we're next to a beach under umbrellas having umbrella drinks.

She's your ma.  It's her JOB to complain. 

Could you drive a column shifter or just a floor shifter back in the day ? I used to drive a Bug but had trouble handling larger cars with column shifters.

I once had a 1950 Chevy with a column shift.  Didn't like it much.  An awkward place from which to shift. 

I'm a guy who's been enjoying your chats since they started. I ALWAYS take the polls, and whenever they're gender-specific, I ALWAYS align almost exactly with the female response. Should I worry about that, or just shrug my shoulders and finish painting my toenails?

I find I almost invariably align with the ladies politically. 

When Herb Caen of the San Francisco Chronicle, died, I remember thinking that his obviously prewritten, stuck in the Chronicle Library, and printed after appropriate changes, while well done, wasn't up to Caen's writing. I thought at the time that, since he was a humor writer, and new Years before his illness that he was going to die SOME day, it would have been a good idea to write and file his own obit. 1) Have you ever thought of that? Sending your fans what amounts to a final column from the grave? And (2) Am I really weird for asking this? Me? I'm El Cerrito El Cerrito

I'm feeling too old and vulnerable to answer that question. 

Gene, your cryptic update a few weeks got me thinking you were leaving the WaPo. True/False?

No.   Not that I know of.     I did mean to be cryptic, though.  I might make some changes, just for the sake of change.  

Okay, on that I quit.   Have an appointment so need to leave a tad earlier.   Super chat -- thank you all. 

See you 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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