The Washington Post

Chatological Humor: Monthly with Moron (July)

Jul 30, 2013

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Poll 1: Age 39 or younger / Age 40+
Poll 2: Short story poll

Join Gene Weingarten Tuesday, July 30 for his monthly chat with readers. NOTE: The monthly chat occurs the last Tuesday of every month. All the rest of the Tuesdays are "chat updates." If you have a question for Gene to answer during this monthly chat, please submit it on this page. He does not take questions during the chat updates.

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

About this chat:
At one time or another, Below the Beltway has managed to offend persons of both sexes as well as individuals belonging to every religious, ethnic, regional, political and socioeconomic group. If you know of a group we have missed, please write in and the situation will be promptly rectified. "Rectified" is a funny word.

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

Important, secret note to readers: The management of The Washington Post apparently does not know this chat exists, or it would have been shut down long ago. Please do not tell them. Thank you.

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

His most recent book, "The Fiddler In The Subway," is a collection of his full-length stories. He is working on a new book, called "One Day," about the events of December 28, 1986, a date chosen at random by drawing numbers from a hat.

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Ed's Note: If composing your questions in Microsoft Word please turn off the Smart Quotes functionality or use WordPad. I haven't the time to edit them out.

Good afternoon.

We are going to dwell a bit on cartoons this morning. First, let us visit and destroy The New Yorker, which committed an unspeakable fraud this week, to its everlasting shame and disgrace.

What we have here are the three finalists for their new cartoon caption contest. Do you notice anything unusual about all three?

No? Look again.

Okay, I'll tell you. THE WRONG PERSON IS SPEAKING. The cartoonist clearly intended the surgeon to be speaking. That's why we have his mask moving. That's why the golfer's mouth is closed. There is no debating this: 100 out of 100 cartoonists will look at this cartoon and tell you that.

Here's what must have happened: When the entries started rolling in, the judges realized they had screwed up: There were no good lines for the surgeon -- the only reasonable jokes could be delivered by the golfer. So the judges sort of looked at each other sideways, did that little "tum-te-tum" whistly thing people on bad sitcoms do when they tacitly agree to choose expediency over honor and forfeit their mortal souls in the process. The editors proceeded to silently CHANGE THE RULES. Without so much as a hey howdy-do.

This is like a man about to lose at checkers suddenly declaring the game to be chess and taking all the other guy's pieces with his "queen."

They thought they could get away with it. They did not reckon on us, now did they?


Speaking of us, something highly unusual happened last week in the Post's comics pages.

You all are of course familiar with Barney & Clyde, the comic strip written by me and my son, Dan, and drawn by cartoonist David Clark. Some of you like it. Some of you dislike it. I hear from both sides, in roughly equal proportion, and with some passion on both sides. If you look at the strip's Wikipedia page, there is the beginning of a nice, spirited war over whether the strip trivializes homelessness (it does) and whether that is a good or bad thing. (It is good, by humanizing the homeless.) Many disagree. The debate continues. We welcome it.

One of the critics we hear from every so often is The Post itself, specifically the editors in the Style section, who occasionally find an episode tasteless. They are extremely sensitive to perceived tastelessness. They are inevitably wrong -- our able syndicate editor, the poet Amy Lago, relentlessly polices us for taste long before the strip ever arrives at its client papers -- but it is their right to be wrong, and their duty to edit everything in the paper, including the comics pages. So whenever they decide to be wrong, we either change the content of the strip or give them a replacement. Invariably, this means there are two version of a given strip: The one sent out to all other client papers, which run it as originally written without complaint, and the one appearing in The Post.

This happened last week with a strip that made the Style editors uncomfortable. (This was actually scripted by the incredible Horace LaBadie, who bombards us with good scripts all the time and whose work you see amazingly often.) Here is how it went out to syndicate clients.

The Post got all squirmy and uncomfy with it. They asked for a replacement. We were going to give them an old strip, but Amy had a better idea. She and I replaced the dialogue in the strip with new stuff. And this is how it appeared in paper copies of the Washington Post. Note that even the lettering is generic.

We think this will be our replacement-model of choice in the future!


Urgent sex-and-flatulence news, just in from the Empress of the Style Invitational.


A block from my house is quaint Eastern Market, which sells all sorts of arts and crafts, including distinctive, fine leather wallets made by Tariiq Omari Walton. Tariiq had an unusual one on display for $45. I kept passing it and thinking, man, I'm too old to make that work. But, man.

I really don't like thinking I'm too old for anything. So now it is mine. See Gene's buy here

Okay, please take the polls below. We start at noon sharp. And will be talking, right quick, about Anthony Weiner.



Today's Style Invitational blast from the past Ink of the Day goes back to 2001, in a contest to come up with the best Rodney Dangerfield-style joke. The winning entry, as you can see, is "I don't get no respect. My wife's favorite position is back to back," by the great (Chuck Smith, Woodbridge.)

As it happens, Rodney himself chose the winners. Also, as it happens, I recorded him choosing the winner over the phone. He and Bob Saget did it together. It was one of the weirder experiences of my life, talking to Rodney Dangerfield, who sounds exactly like Rodney Dangerfield.

Here it is. Three years later, Rodney would be dead.

As this Anthony Weiner thing continues to unfold, I have started to suspect that he and his wife have, not necessarily an open marriage, but an "agreement" that he is allowed to sext with other women. Otherwise, I really can't understand why she's still with him. If I'm right, it would make me more likely to vote for him. I might personally find his behavior icky, but if he's not betraying his wife's trust then it becomes much less of an issue to me. However, America loves the "redeemed sinner" narrative and hates anything outside of "traditional family values," so I think he'd actually have a smaller chance of getting elected if he explained the agreement. Which is sad, because it prevents us from being able to separate the real liars and cheats from those who simply got caught by the public doing something that they had their spouse's permission to do. Anyway, what do you think of this theory?

I would like to hear from some women, but I think there is basically no chance Huma was / is okay with this.   It's revolting.  It's indicative of a serious, serious personality disorder.    I guess the best analogy I can make is:  Can you imagine ANY wife being okay with her husband walking arouind neighborhoods peeping in on ladies in bedrooms?  Because that's the level of seediness of what he is doing.

I can more imagine a wife accepting an open marriage -- discreet, dignified affairs -- than this sort of adolescent sleaze with bimbos.

It's all moot.  He's through.   And I'm guessing so is his marriage, despite what his wife is saying now.

Women: Am I wrong?  Is this something you could tolerate to save a marriage?

Okay, let's do this as an instapoll.

For women only!!! Men, do not take this poll. Sorry.

Click here to take the poll.

that her Standing By Her Man this time around is going to do anything but disgust and alienate voters? Makes her seem totally weird if not simply power-hungry.

I think she is basically power hungry.  I'm a little uncomfortable with this coming down to a judgment on HER, though.   He's the douche.   

OH, just got this from my friend Christine Lavin, who has created a new ending for "What Were They Thinking..." about Weiner and Huma.   It's a delight.   I love the two heads line.

Gene, please tell me that you were well aware of the similar wallet in Pulp Fiction when you bought it? Because that just makes the whole old-man-owning-that-wallet even funnier. I love it and approve.

Hm.  I saw PF, but have no clear recollection.  Tell me.

Just be careful. Samuel Jackson may be coming to reclaim it

Ah.   Astoundingly, I had forgotten.

I should have realized that was a replacement. Good enough on its own, though; I singled it out to show to my wife, who really doesn't like meta, and she laughed. (Sorry that the Post couldn't see its way to running the original.)

What do we all think about whether the original was in any way tasteless?    I won't prejudice the question by elaborating further.

I wasn't aware of the Post's change, but I loved your generic comic when I saw it.

Anytime you see one in the future, you'll know what happened.

@geneweingarten Observation: If your bio begins "Xxxxx is a former ..." you might want to kill yourself. I'm always surprised to see "kill yourself" used so casually. Somehow it has become incredibly common online, to the point where a professional writer can use it without apparently thinking. Roddy White of the Atlanta Falcons got in trouble two weeks ago for tweeting that the Zimmerman jury should off themselves. Other stars have used it from time to time with angry fans. I know you're not being literal, but...really? It's an order of magnitude nastier than "go f___ yourself", which at least isn't actually possible. People who say "go kill yourself" should...rethink their lives.

Explanation:  A couple days ago I tweeted: "If your bio begins "Xxxxx is a former..." you might want to kill yourself."   This writer seems to think it was an awful thing to say.

What Roddy White said was about six specific people; it was also clearly said in anger.  In short, he meant it. 

What I wrote was said about no one in particular, and I think could not be taken literally.    So the question you really ask is:  Is suicide such a freighted subject that it cannot / should not be used in support of a joke?  Maybe.

I think the Post was right to pull the strip, if only because your punchline seems to be implying that Gay men "recruit" straights (i.e. the flamboyantly gay Uncle Sam recruiting young men to join him). Unfortunately it is essentially this misguided notion that informs much of the homophobia that pervades this nation, the fear that Gay people "turn" their sons and daughters. Obviously this is untrue, but your strip would seem to perpetuate the notion. At least that's how I read it and I'm a staright male. (And yes, I know that the young lady is called on for discipline, but I read it not for the homophobic notion, but for her subversive thoughts on Uncle Sam). Just sayin.

Tom the Butcher made a similar point, but he felt that was a stretchy I-want-to-be-offended interpretation.   Dan and I (and Horace) felt the engine of the joke was clearly that Cynthia, who is wildly liberal, was just yankin' her granddad's chain, and that this was really a joke about generational differences.

Thanks for letting me know he was dead. I thought he was still alive, but I guess I was thinking of Don Rickles.


Your update with the GEICO ad and the clip from The Conversation got me to thinking about an egregious error in misquotation that nearly everyone, including sources that really should know better, makes. You surely know the famous line at the very end of the noir film, Chinatown. "Forget it Jake. It's Chinatown." By all accounts one of the greatest quotes in movie history. Only problem is that's not the quote. Listen to the clip here. Walsh CLEARLY says "Forget HER Jake. It's Chinatown." HER! NOT IT! How can this lie be so ingrained in our collective conscience?

I wanted to believe you, but I hear it as "it."

Gene, since you are a pet lover and proud dad of a young veterinarian, you are the guy to answer my question. I went to my vet clinic's website to get the phone number and make an appointment, and I checked the bios of the docs. Of the six, the one we are seeing is by far the least experienced; she's a 2011 graduate. The others have been practicing at least 10 years, some much more. Am I being ageist in reacting with worry that my pet isn't going to get the "best" care? I'm not sure I'd want someone who's been at for a half-century, either. I thought to myself that I'd be thrilled to take my pet to your daughter, who of course must be excellent, but I'm apprehensive about taking him to this probably very capable vet for the sole reason that I worry she just hasn't seen enough yet. I was an idiot when I was just out of law school; I mean, I was smart but could not do anything by myself. What's your view about how much tthe experience of the vet should matter to me, if at all? (By the way, "my pet" is a cat, whom I adore, but I hesistated to say so in case you are anti-cat. I know you're pro-dog, which often overlaps with anti-cat, although I don't subscribe to tthe false dichotomy of dog-vs-cat.) Also, he has no special health concerns that I'm aware of. Please advise. Thank you.

It is incredibly hard to get into vet schools, because there are so few of them: 27 in the U.S., I think, meaning it's quite a bit easier to get into medical school.   The vet graduates are amazingly bright and able young people, who essentially have to take all the same courses doctors do (except psychiatry) and have to learn the same skills AND how to apply them to more than one species.   They are not in it for the money, or they simply would be medical doctors -- same grind, higher payoff.  They are deeply devoted to the welfare of animals. 

Your 2011 graduate has probably just finished her internship and possibly starting a residency (if this is a big clinic) meaning that she has been driven hellishly hard to learn on the job during ridiculous hours.   If she is a resident, she is probably earning $32,000 a year. 

I thoroughly agree with you that a first-year lawyer knows diddly.   But I'm guessing your cat will be just with this lady.

Molly, by the way, has just ended her third year of residency. She's been a doctor for four years.  Finally, starting next month, she gets big-girl money.  She is 32. Vets are special people.

I am going to have a baby, my 2nd daughter, in about 3 weeks. My husband and I can't seem to find a name that's agreeable to both of us. Our daughters have my husband's last name which is a Jewish name and we like traditional names - we named our first daughter Sarah. My husband has rejected Abigail, which was my top choice. He also rejected Harper, on the grounds that Bryce Harper will be playing for the Yankees in a few years anyway. I think he has said that he likes Madeline but we would probably both like something shorter. Give us a suggestion!

I am so happy about Harper being a Yankee.   (It's muted happiness; I like the Nats.)

Uh, Molly.    I like Abigail, too.   Eliza.  Liza. 


Gene, you're probably going to tell us one of the famous writers did this dreadful short story and now we're supposed to change our minds and think it's ok. It's not. It's terrible. A story needs good sentences and good structure, and this has neither. I could barely get into the second sentence (who's that "He" referring to, A. or B.? This is basic grammar!) Unless you wrote it. In which case, please go to a doctor, I think you've had a stroke.

Well, okay.  I disagree.   See next post. 

I'm not certain what we're supposed to be judging. Is this just a plot outline of a longer short story, with intrigue, descriptions, character development, humor, actual names instead of A and B, etc.? In which case it's not so bad; it seems like it could easily be Kafka-esque (reminds me a bit of the Country Doctor). Or do we judge the story completely as is? In which case it's bad. I mean, it really is just a plot summary, not a story.

It's Kafka.  I love Kafka and am pretty sure I'd never seen it before; I found it in an old book I was reading the other day as I went to bed.   I really wanted to fall asleep, but I tore myself out of bed where I wrote KAFKA! CHAT! on the mirror of the bathroom, with soap, where I saw it the next morning and took a while to remember what I was reminding myself about.

I disagree with you about it being a summary.  I think it is a fully formed, utterly brilliant short story.    Does anyone agree with me?  Can anyone explain why I think that, right or wrong? 

Hint:  It would not be as good without the title, and the embedded title line:  A common confusion

I am really surprised by the results on this one (so far anyway). I am a 34 yr old female and will ONLY wear thongs and have for at least the past ten years. Moreover, I don't think I know another woman in my age range who does not also always wear thongs. So the "never or almost never" results stump me. It has nothing to do with sex-appeal - if anything I think, alone, thongs make everyone look horrible and full panties look much sexier - but under clothes it is absolutely imperative! Even thick jeans show panty lines. Its actually about being proper/put together (excluding of course, the brief time period where you saw teen girls wearing them showing with low cut pants - creepy).

I am shocked, too!  I thought this would show a very clear age distinction, and I thought everyone under 40 wears thongs.  I don't understand this.

I am also shocked that men of all ages seem to like thongs.  This has thrown me for a loop.  My seat-of-the-pants guesses were all wrong.  Ha.

Gene--You're rarely wrong. But it seems to me you are clearly wrong about the New Yorker cartoon. The lines around the surgeon's head look to me as if they are meant to indicate a rapid turn of the head; this is the only way the reader knows the golfer just now burst through the door. And besides, the golfer is the focus of the picture, with all eyes in the cartoon directly on him, as if they are waiting for him to say something. Alternatively, if the lines were supposed to symbolize speech, why would the surgeon be talking out of his mouth and the back of his hat?

I disagree.  Plus, the golfer's mouth is clearly shut.   Any cartoonists out there like to weigh in?

While your assessment of the cartoon, submissions and two of the three captions stands up, I believe that the first caption works better with the surgeon saying it, and therefore is by default the winner. Just imagine a snotty surgeon saying to the errant golfer, "Mind if I cut through?" Yes, this makes for a poor contest, as there is only one correct choice, but it sort of explains, but does not excuse The New Yorker staff.

I bet the submitter did not mean to have the doctor say that.  

I'm sure you'll get plenty of comments on this, but here I go anyway. I was a firm devotee of this until recently. (I am also a firm devotee of the comma before the and, but that's another poll.) But I realized that the world is changing, so I must too. It took some time, but I was able to make the switch to only one space. Was I wrong to do so?

I am beyond the ability to be unbiased.   To me, two spaces LOOKS better.   But that is through my 61 year old eyes.  I once used a linotype.

Last time, before the latest Weiner debacle came out, a chatter wrote: "Weiner does not have the temerity to run for Mayor of New York. He is not running for Mayor of New York. His temerity is much bigger than that. He's letting the crap get stirred now so when he runs higher office (Governor, Senator) the scandal will be old news. His current campaign began ridiculously late and thin-on-the-ground. Trust me, my sib is working on a rival campaign, and no one, especially the big sausage himself, is taking his run at face value. It's a set up and a toe dip. Don't fall for it!" I don't know much about politics, but this campaign was so totally off the wall that I bet your chatter is right. If (when) he announces in a bunch of years a new campaign, I hope there's someone to call him on it.

Yes, I thought it was a fascinating comment, but it sure hasn't worked out so good, has it?   He is toast, now and forever.  

With Doonesbury on hiatus and Cul de Sac retired, the two extra-sized spots on the Post's comics page are now going to two pleasant but relatively low-profile strips. Shouldn't the top spots go to strips that feature first-class art or wit? Barney and Clyde exempted, what two strips do you think deserve the top spots?

Good question.  And yes, I agree with you.  I would make the choice not entirely on the basis of quality; I'd also factor in which strips have art that is complex enough to NEED the extra space.    For example, I like Pearls Before Swine, but it is drawn and lettered so primitively (in a good way) it plays beautifully smaller.   I'd probably go with "Get Fuzzy" and "Zits."     I also love the art in Blondie, and would like to see it bigger.

Speaking of Blondie, someone asked a few weeks ago why Blondie is never drawn seated facing the reader, and I responded that it was so you couldn't look up her skirt.  I was amazed at the number of readers who took that answer seriously, as though, y'know, if you COULD the artist would have no choice but to draw a crotch. 

Speaking of which, I discovered just yesterday that the publisher of the Indianapolis Star, Karen Crotchfelt, was not born with that name.   She actually willingly took it from her husband.  She was born with a perfectly fine name Ferguson.  I have emailed her for an explanation.   I will fill you in when I know. 

I have a major problem with the trend in politics as being more and more negative. As Chris Cillizza has pointed out, 70 percent of political ads are negative ads. It is harder to get good people to run for political office when they realize that their reputations will be destroyed in advertising media. Soon, the only people who run for office will be only those who enjoy having their reputations destroyed....and I think I now understand Anthony Weiner.

I actually agree with you.  I don't know what the solution is, because one thing EVERYONE in politics knows is that going neg works.    It is absolutely unifersally understood.

Your previous advice on finding a new vet in light of Molly's experiences (about what the schools from which they received their degrees tell you) was really useful in finding a good vet where we used to live, but we have a wrinkle -- when you move to a new area (here, from Texas, thank goodness) and you have a dog with issues (6 year old doberman rescue with a degenerative spinal condition) and surgery has been recommended (by our neurologist in Houston) -- how do you find a vet that has familiarity with/specializes in either that surgery or that breed? We contacted local rescue groups with limited success, but this condition should have been diagnosed a lot earlier and only got diagnosed b/c the new vet happened to be familiar with the breed (they didn't have any recs for this area). This is such a big deal surgery and it seems like a 50-50 shot, but her condition is deteriorating so quickly, we've got to do something relatively fast. Probably not a chat question, but I was hoping against hope that your daughter's knowledge + your sympathy for sweet, not-so-old-but-hobble-y dogs might win out.

You need a big clinic, big enough to have neurologists.   The only Molly has worked at until last week would be perfect, I think:  VCA Gaithersburg.   Alert: They are not cheap.

I don't understand it, and neither does my husband, who says that the sight just makes him think of how disgusting the actual thong part must get during the course of a day.

I seriously invite men and women to further discuss this.  

Hi Gene. You responded to a question of mine in the September 27, 2011 chat regarding my "situation" in which I faked you-know-what during sex because I was convinced I could not actually achieve the real deal in that context. Your answer, which I found to be incredibly useful all around, contained this nugget: "It seems to me that if you can do it to yourself, you can have it done to you, and that probably the impediment is in your own mind." I really took this advice to heart, and about a year ago (following the end of a long term relationship) decided I was going to STOP what I was doing going forward. I would face the problem head on and if it didn't work out or the guy wasn't ok with it, so be it. Anyway, nearly two years later I am here to report that you were right. To my great surprise, I might add! The breakthrough came about 2 months ago, and I have to say I'm fairly over the moon about it, for obvious and maybe not-so-obvious reasons. I won't go so far as to give you FULL credit for this development, but the truth is your words really stuck with me and I have to say they played a not-insignificant part in the ultimate resolution. I remember a few others wrote in after my confession to say they'd experienced something similar. My advice from the other side of the divide - if you have a chance to start fresh on this, DO IT! So anyway, thank you Gene. You done right by me.

My first thought in reading this was Yay!  followed by the realization that I wasn't really understanding what it is that you stopped doing, or started doing, and how that had  changed things.  

It turns out that I needed to run your answer by an actual woman, who immediately understood and explained it to me: You stopped faking, and in so doing took away a very un-hot, anxiety-producing part of your sex experience, which allowed you eventually to surrender to the moment without the baggage of having to choreograph a phony event.    Also, that your doing this after ending a relationship meant that you did not need to explain to an existing lover why things had seemingly changed for you during the transition period.

Men are thickheaded.   I'm glad this worked out, and a little proud.    

I am the original sender of that question and clip. That so clearly sounds like "her" to me that I am seriously considering my sanity. Or yours. Do you know any expert we can ask to settle this once and for all?

Well, google it.   There are 400,000 "it's" and about 7 hers. 

I am a 50 something woman and I am surprised that women are so self-conscious of panty lines. Really? I can understand if one is wearing a very tight dress on an important occasion, where one might be photographed, one would avoid lines. But on a daily basis? Under jeans? Who cares? I am flummoxed. Flinging full-coverage cotton briefs right at you!

And -- as I have pointed out exhaustively -- men LOVE visible panty lines.  

I do get the issue: Women dress for women, not for men.  Men like everything.  We're animals.

I didn't know anything about this!   The head of a university was a suburban dungeon master !

I agree with the poster: "go kill yourself" is a lazy phrase that is too fraught to be taken lightly. A common theme in bullying is that the targets are told to just kill themselves (repeatedly, by people they don't even know, in person and online)--read stories of teen suicide and you see it again and again. It's hateful and in 2013 may simply mean more than you think it means.

Consider me schooled.

What happened? When Obama won his second term, did Trudeau realize that his work was done?

Garry is writing an extended Amazon sitcom.   Garry does not retire.  He re-energizes.

I give up. I tried to parse it as a riddle but I don't get it and it makes me feel dumb that you do.

Well, it doesn't seem to have a lot of defenders, so:  This is Kafka.  His stories are about alienation, and misunderstanding and miscommunication.  He feels life is all about those things; it's a pretty persuasive argument.

By universalizing this -- literally making it generic, and declaring it is a common confusion -- he is saying:  This is life.  I am exaggerating it, and making it absurd and metaphysical, only because, at its gnarly, scary roots, it is.   Has no one else noticed that this 300-word piece is really, really ... funny?   

especially in this day and age of considering pets to be people?

I think the answer is simple: If you are going to go through that degree of training, and it is completely brutal, people want the money that comes with being a human doctor.   Molly will make a good living, but she will never make what an equivalently skilled and specialized, say, cardiac surgeon will.

Thongs are horrible. I'm a 32 year old chick, and I've never worn them for anything other than getting down. They're uncomfortable as all hell and don't do anything for your body. VPL is so much more appealing than having everyone see my butt jiggle in thin pants. Seriously ladies, nobody cares about your panty lines!

I think I need to ask about what "getting down" means. Sorry.  Old man here.

. . . The first entry could be re-worded as: "No, you *CAN'T* play through! " And, it is definitely the doctor talking. . .

Agreed.  That would work.   Though not terrifically funny.

I initially read this as "I nervously invite men and women to further discuss this. "

Works that way, too.  

I'm a 36 year old woman and hate to wear thongs. I do when I have too to prevent the dreaded VPL with some pants and skirts or dresses, but thongs actually make me physically ill. I have no idea if this science is sound, but it makes me think my body naturally releases some gas through the colon all day, but since it's noiseless and doesn't smell, we don't notice it but only the loud, smelly farting. And I think the thong is blocking my body from doing that, thus causing a painful buildup during the day. Thank goodness these chats are anonymous!

I am laughing out loud.   Man, if EYE could be anonymous, imagine what else would get discussed.

I loved your tactic for the replacement strip, although it's funniest in context. Overall, how have your experiences between with comics page editors and syndicate editors during Barney and Clyde's run? Gary Larson, Bill Watterson and Frank Cho all battled with those folks. Larson admitted, however, that his own editor saved the cartoonist from himself a few times. I get the impression that these editors imagine the typical comics page reader to be not just elderly but also prudish - that would partially explain the persistence of the legacy comics. .

We have a very good initial editor in Amy Lago.  This has not been an ordeal.    And I really should emphasize: We don't begrudge it that The Post edits us.   We think they are oversensitive, but we don't take the stance that saying no is "censorship."  Saying no is editing.

Notice that the older the males get, the less likely they are to like thongs. That's because thongs look terrible on a body that has been assaulted by gravity. I'm sorry, I'm a runner and certifiably hot by the standards of this chat, and here at 39 I cannot wear them. There are just these weird lumps on the side, and some extra skin left over from my offspring. And the rear view may be packed firmly thanks to the weekly mileage, but it's not round like it was when I was twenty. It's more... square. And finally, the older you get...well, between 'roids and pregnancy-induced leakage, the more likely that thong part is going to get _nasty_. Buttfloss is a young girl's game, and/or for people with no imagination.

I don't have experience in this area, but I honestly believe that I would vastly prefer to see a shapely young woman in panties than in a thong. 

How funny is it that that inane Fox "News" attack interview of Reza Aslan has spurred HUGE sales of his book? Sometimes real life is just sooooo deliciously good.

It is completely spectacular.  I love watching him, quite politely, continually telling the anchor bozo, hey, you're an idiot. 

Getting down = sex. Sorry, thought I'd be less clear for the family newspaper.

Ah, but now we are at the seat of the matter: Why would a thong be for sex?  Do you perceive that men prefer 'em?   

Not sure if you were being serious about Don Rickles, but not only is he alive he's on twitter.

I did know he was alive.

Gene, surprised you let the characterization of John Brown as a "nutcase" pass unchallenged in your last monthly chat. Surely being unwillingly subjected to an unsuccessful insanity defense by one's lawyers does not make one insane. The lie about the supposed insanity of John Brown was promulgated primarily by the KKK. Their "logic"? He wanted to help black people, therefore he must have been insane!

You are right.   He was a zealot for a good cause, and a bit messianic in that cause (he believed he was apppionted to this task by God).   He was arguably a terrorist in a good cause.   But you could make the argument, too, that he wasn't that different from Lincoln, who also believed that blood had to be spilled, masses of it, to purge the country of an evil.   AT no point during his final months did Brown even lose his temper, let alone his mind, except when they wouldn't let his wife stay with him the night before his hanging.

A friend managed to infiltrate the Virginia militia to spring him out of jail, and he declined, saying at 59 he was too old to live as a fugitive, and would rather die as a martyr; surely a sane decision.   And he was right: The furor over his death did much to spin us into civil war.

These are not the words of a madman.  They were among his last:

Had I interfered in the manner which I admit, and which I admit has been fairly proved (for I admire the truthfulness and candor of the greater portion of the witnesses who have testified in this case), had I so interfered in behalf of the rich, the powerful, the intelligent, the so-called great, or in behalf of any of their friends, either father, mother, brother, sister, wife, or children, or any of that class, and suffered and sacrificed what I have in this interference, it would have been all right; and every man in this court would have deemed it an act worthy of reward rather than punishment.

This court acknowledges, as I suppose, the validity of the law of God. I see a book kissed here which I suppose to be the Bible, or at least the New Testament. That teaches me that all things whatsoever I would that men should do to me, I should do even so to them. It teaches me, further, to "remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them." I endeavored to act up to that instruction. I say, I am yet too young to understand that God is any respecter of persons. I believe that to have interfered as I have done as I have always freely admitted I have done in behalf of His despised poor, was not wrong, but right. Now, if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments, I submit; so let it be done!"

OK, so I'm one of those who doesn't like it much. That said, "What do we all think about whether the original was in any way tasteless?" I don't know about tasteless so much as tacky. "HEY - Let's imply that Uncle Sam is gay!" Seems rather outdated.

It doesn't help if you look at it as a little war of generations?  Cyn is trying to get the old goat's goat?

I'm a female in my 30s too. I sometimes wear thongs if the outfit demands it and I'm taking special care with my appearance. Those are the days I might consider heels, too. On a typical day, there is no way in hell I'm wearing butt floss. I don't give a damn about VPL, especially after reading Gene go on about it. That absolved what little concern I have. I want to get through my day with comfort, and that means real panties. I was cheered to read the results of the poll. I had long since figured that since I have no poop shame, I must have failed Being a Woman 101 long ago and that my underwear choices were going to show that I'm out of step with my gender yet again. Here's another fun fact: I never match my bra to my panties. I know - I'm such a rebel.

I am happy about the first half of the results.  That women don't much like em.  I am not happy that men do.

Bush Veterinary Neurological Service ( Note: also pricy.

Don't know this group, but I bet they're good.

Woman here. Whether or not his wife is ok with it is really not relevant to me. The activity is childish and silly. It shows a lack of judgement, self-control and maturity.

He seems like a ridiculously immature, self-centered, insecure jackass.

I'm a middle-aged guy. If I'm following a 20-something woman wearing a raspberry-colored thong under her skin-tight skirt/slacks and I catch up to her at the next intersection, is it polite to thank her?

I think no jury would convict her for slapping you upside the head.

Until recently I thought I was a reasonably attractive woman who was taking her time to get over a divorce before dating. Then, I decided I wanted to date and realized that the lack of suitors while I was recovering, as it were, may not have been because I had taken myself off the market. I say this because no one -- NO ONE -- has asked me out in real life, on dating sites -- no one. And while I have a sparkling personality and I'm full of wit, wisdom and wherewithall, you can't get to that if you don't appreciate the package it's contained in, and that's what folks encounter first. So, in conclusion, I might be ugly. (I'll pause while you take all this in...) But, though my wrapping has been removed and I'm on the shelf again next to the new and shiny items, didn't Toy Story 3 teach us anything?!!! So, what do I do now, Gene, cause you're already married. Where do I find a smart, dorky, well-written, nerdy, artsy single fella in his early 40s to date?

I tried this once before and it didn't work.  But since we've already proven Chatological Humor can be Sexological Humor, maybe it can be Yentalogical Humor, too.

I know you are not ugly. 

If you are willing for me to know who you are, email me at gene.weingarten(at)      Any single fortyish men who would like to apply for this lady's hand should also email me there as well, with a description of why you think you might be the right guy.   I will cull out the creeps and weirdos, play matchmater, and send exactly ONE suitor to you, and let's see what happens.   

Your biggest risk is that you will identify yourself to me, with any attendant embarrassment, and no guy will come forth.  If that happens, I will write you a poem.

Gene: I know you're not a career counselor, but I trust your instincts. I've been temping at a corporation I knew nothing about before. I've come to realize that the politics here are the polar opposite of my own. The work is dull, but I'm good at it, and the boss seems to really like me. A job may open soon, and no one else is hiring me. Saying no puts me back on unemployment. Saying yes puts me at a place that would make me sick to support. Yeesh!

It's nice to have money, you know, and you don't have to stay any longer than it takes you to get a better job.

Here's the question:  When you say the place has "politics" that you don't like, do you mean that the place actively works to advance a policy  of which you disapprove?  That would be a problem to me.  I could not work for a company that was working, for example, to deny gay marriage or limit a woman's right to choose or make it harder for poor people to vote.     But it you simply mean that the corporate culture is one that you find objectionable... eh.   Take the bucks until something better comes along.

Hi Gene, You've mentioned your new theory about politics - basically, that it boils down to who you give the benefit of the doubt to - a few times recently. For me, that's not *exactly* it. Instead, the way I think of it is that I trust the people I vote for (specifically Obama) to make the same decisions I would if I had all of the information they have. I'm well informed, but I'm also pretty sure that the president has more information than me and that some of that information would change my opinion if I had access to it. So when I voted for Obama, I was voting for his decision-making abilities. The same goes for state/local leaders - we elect them to sit through endless testimony, think carefully through the issues involved, talk with their constituents, and ultimately do what's best, NOT to tally up the number of pro vs. con e-mails they receive and vote accordingly. My high school government teacher explained it this way: America is not a democracy, but a democratic republic. We freely elect our leaders into office, and we can freely vote them out if they aren't serving us well. But during their term, while we can express our opinions to them in any way we like, the ultimate decision is theirs to make.

I think we're saying the same thing.

I give the benefit of the doubt to Obama because I think that he's a lot more like me in his thinking than, say, W. was.  A LOT more.   Example: When Obama was saying he thought marriage should be between a man and a woman, I KNEW he was lying.  Actually, I knew that what he was really saying was "my official position is..." because he needed to say that to win.     

Benefit of the doubt.

Q: Why did the chicken cross the road? A: To show the possum it could be done.

Thank you.

What's your opinion of people using chopsticks? Today at lunch, in one of your ubiquitous downtown salad/hot food bars I observed two groups of people eating lunch. Four assumed Chinese (they were speaking Mandarin) eating what passes for Chinese food in DC with forks and knives. Three 30-something assumed American women (they were speaking English) eating chicken Caesar salads with chopsticks. I can maybe see using chopsticks at a Chinese restaurant, but with a Caesar salad?

I think you have to watch this now.

This orthodontist in Albuquerque works it into his tagline. An important figure in the history of a sperm bank (second paragraph).


We have them where I work -- Hiny Hiders ("Designed to be worry-free!"). They're the best I've seen.

I confess to confusion.   Why does it matter if you see the bottom of the toilet?    How is this an improvement?  

Your recent update reminded me of this ad from ATT back in the 80's. This always made me mad because of a central bit of crap-logic. Do you see the problem?

You mean that he dials it twice?

I guess I am not seeing the logic lapse.

Gene - A couple of weeks ago, I gave you a little grief about something you posted on Twitter along the lines of "If you thought that was funny, they should revoke that little check mark you so love". You shot back with, "You have 2 followers". This blew me away. I always figured you were basically without ego on things like this and wouldn't care how many follower you yourself had and really wouldn't care how many little old me had. What gives? Anyhow, I'm up to 5 now and I'd really like to know why anyone would bother following me. There must be something wrong with these people! Hopefully the NSA is on it.

B-b-but you had TWO followers.  It was the perfect answer of funny dismissive contempt.   I would not have responded if you had, like, 11 followers.  But TWO.  You were whispering out there.   Or yapping fiercely like a little dog.  Now that you have five I will respect your personhood. 

Speaking of personhood, this was my column on Sunday.   I was surprised at the number of people who wrote in to decry my lenience on "Nobody...their."

I've gotten away with them when I can make them wildly unrealistic or over the top. "I'm going to slit my wrists" would worry people, even people who are certain that I'm not serious. "Excuse me while I go jam myself in the microwave" or "I'm going to hurl myself from the nearest parapet" can be used sparingly and don't seem to generate the same level of alarm. (Probably because my microwave barely heats water and I don't think I've ever even seen a parapet.) Remove any possibility that you could be crying out for help or dredging up a listener's awful trauma by being as ridiculous as possible, and you can joke about suicide. Sparingly.

There is an analogy in the comics.  Lago taught me that.  You can't have one character threaten another with a gun: Too real.   But with a bazooka, sure!

I was apparently in the minority on the spaces poll, answering "Sometimes", so I thought I'd explain. I double space after periods when writing formally (papers for school, professional writing) but not in casual writing. I'm not doing it now, for instance. I don't ever think about it, it's just a switch that toggles when I move into formal writing - like not using contractions. I know it's not considered correct anymore, but it's what I was taught at some point and it stuck. I'm 29 if it matters.

With me, it is a complete addiction.  I don't think I could stop.   I even do it on Twitter, and then have to go back, if I'm over the limit, and apply the Rule On Conservation of Space after Period.

John Kelly has encroached into your territory with some recent columns on bathroom behavior. His specific topic was germs and the things we do as humans to avoid them, even when such behavior is asinine. The specific example from his columns that really chafes me is using a paper towel to open the door and then THROWING THE PAPER TOWEL ON THE FLOOR. This used to happen with frequency in the bathroom on my office floor, although it hasn't been happening much recently. What in the world are people thinking with this approach? OK, fine, maybe there are germs on the doorknob, although I tend not to worry about it all that much. In what world is tossing a used paper towel on the floor appropriate behavior? And, what about all of those other doorknobs in the office? If a person's hands were germy when touching the bathroom doorknob, aren't they still germy (and maybe even more germy) when touching other doorknobs? This just seems like insane behavior to me. Do men do the same thing in the men's room (as if you couldn't tell from the rest of this rant, I'm a woman)?

I find germophobes creepy.   It's a serious prejudice of mine.  I see it as a form of self-centeredness no less awful than being a big-wedding aficionado.   People who travel with hand sanitizer.  Ew.   Plus, the more germophobic one is, the more one is likely to fall victim to germs; you're not going to build up any defenses. 

This permits me to link to a page from "The Hypochondriac's Guide to Life.  And Death."

Do you care to comment on the Post's story about Josh Powell? He was home "schooled" and finally made it to Georgetown by his own hard work. The father sounds like he has his head up his a-- so far he's staring out his navel. Good for Josh, especially since he is working to get an adequate education for the younger kids. The parents are minimally guilty of neglect.

This was a deeply disturbing story to me.   Religious zealotry just drives me nuts.    I admire Josh immensely, and yes, I think this borders on child abuse.   It's not all that different from denying medicine to a sick child because of religious beliefs.   

Gene - Is there anything to be concerned about in adopting an approximately 2 year old dog that is not house broken? Is it too late to teach this young dog some new tricks? It spent some of his early life in a pound/shelter and then with a woman who can no longer care for him. He's a Shelty/Daschund mix. The kiddos want him, but I'm a little wary.

I would not adopt an adult dog who is not housebroken.

A serious question: What's the latest on your neighbor Michael whom you wrote about in the wake of his dramatic eviction from his rented home on Capitol Hill?

Michael arrived just yesterday, with a truck and two workers, and my house is now free of bling.  

Yep, it took him two months, but we expected no less. Michael is not the most organized of people.

For those who missed the original story, here it is.

What do you make of your readers' responses to your Zimmerman polls? I admit I didn't follow the whole controversy all that closely until halfway through the trial, but I'm astonished at the widespread outrage over the verdict. A few key facts seem beyond dispute: (1) Zimmerman called the cops before anything went down, and (2) From the time Zimmerman called the cops until he shot Martin, a few minutes passed, likely more than enough time for Martin to safely reach his home. I cannot reconcile these facts with the prevailing narrative that Zimmerman stalked and killed an unarmed kid for no reason. What kind of person calls the cops before killing someone, or even before starting a fight? Perhaps this was all part of a diabolical plan to test the limits of self-defense, but from what I can tell ZImmerman's not bright enough to come up with that. And, if Martin only wanted to get home in one piece, why didn't he just go home after he saw he was being followed? Apparently Zimmerman lost sight of him and headed back to his car--how did the fatal "confrontation" really start? The judge didn't admit any evidence of Martin's past propensity for fighting, so the jury never heard it, but it apparently existed in the form of text messages deleted from his phone. Those messages, plus Martin's "creepy-ass cracker" statement, plus the ample time that Martin had (but did not use) to get home peacefully lead me to conclude that he confronted Zimmerman, not the other way around. You've obviously followed this case. What do you think really happened, and why are people so upset about the verdict?

I think people are upset at the verdict because an armed man stalked an innocent un-armed teenager and shot him to death.   I think people are upset at the verdict because it is crystal clear that nothing would have happened if Zimmerman had not been acting like a vigilante, and clearly imputed bad motives to Trayvon at least in part because Trayvon was black.     I understand people being upset at the verdict based on all of that.  It's an emotional reaction based on a very upsetting set of facts.

It's not a legally logical reaction; based on the evidence, I can't imagine a conviction, for just the reasons you stated.  There is only one fact that would have given me pause: It is not disputed that at one point, Trayvon was running away.  Zimmerman reports it to the police, as does the young woman Trayvon was talking to on the phone.   That suggests to me that he was scared.   Why would he have doubled back to confront the man of whom he was scared?

But we work on reasonable doubt.  Reasonable doubt drenched this case, as two reporters covering the trial told me.    I think it became apparent to most people in the courtoom that it was Zimmerman screaming for help before the shot.

What do I think happened?  I think a 17-year-old boy got scared and then angry.   I think he used 17-year-old boy judgment.    

But I think the whole thing happened because of a jackass with a gun, and an attitude.     Too many jackasses out there, too many guns.  


I have had a left eyelid twitch off and on for the past two weeks. What dread medical conditions might be in play?

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.  But probably you just need to cut down on coffee.

Gene, as the only person I am aware of that covers both the bathroom and gender differences; I'm hoping you can help me explain this phenomenon. I have noticed that men just take longer when preforming seated evacuations - maybe 5-10 minutes is routine. (other women also notice this, and comment about the difference) The man in my life claims that this is simply the amount of time required to complete the task. I find that generally the task is a pretty quick one, maybe 2-3 minutes tops including all associated hygiene. Please offer any insight you have gained from all your poop research.

Men spend much more time pooping.   It is because women do more with their lives.  They are more overscheduled.  Therefore, they must be more efficient in all ways.   This is just one of the many ways women are superior.    

 Without naming names, I can say that I have been acquainted with at least one woman who, to my observation, spends about the same amount of time for a poop as for a pee.

Gene, I think I know your opinion that can not be named. I think you believe that people who have kids shouldn't be able to get divorced (maybe with some limited exceptions). Given your belief that marriage before kids is more of a handshake deal than anything else, you clearly believe that having children changes that deal. I happen to sort of agree that kids are most often the victims in selfish divorces. So, am I right? How will I ever know?

Well, you will never know my Secret Opinion that can't be voiced, but it's not that.  Er, that would be insane. 

If it helps, my special secret opinion is known by about ten people, all close friends.   Some agree with me completely.  Some sorta.   Some not at all.   But they all agree that I may never speak it.

Maybe a dozen readers have written to me with guesses.  Only one was right. 

I'm trying to figure out why I'm willing to give Spitzer a pass but not Weiner. Spitzer is like a guy standing at arms length and offering to clean my septic tank, while Weiner is trying to get his muddy boot in the front door, so he can tromp around, and y'know, see what might need doing, 'cause whatever it is he's the guy to do it.

I like your analogy.      I find it easier to believe that Spitzer is possibly almost normal.   Weiner is just a loathesome, weird bit of scuzz.  Incredibly immature and maniacally egocentric.  And utterly lacking shame.   Essentially, he's got a serious personality disorder and is VERY insecure about his masculinity.

How does the trooper know that the pig driving a convertible has a tail light out when it's broad daylight.


Not a question, just a comment, that The Conversation is in fact very good, and is one of the movie's in John Cazale's remarkable feature film oeuvre. He was only in five movies before he passed away from cancer, but all five were nominated for Best Picture: The Godfather, The Conversation, The Godfather II, Dog Day Afternoon, and The Deer Hunter. Maybe the most impressive IMDB page out there.

He was amazing.   Interestingly, The Conversation was beat out for Best Picture by Godfather II.   (correctly, though both pictures were truly great.)

It is absolutely ingrained in me from school (I'm 50 now). I do not think it is possible for me to default to single spacing, it is essentially like breathing now. Also, the serial comma is not optional, for instance if you want to thank people in the introduction to your book and do not use the serial comma, you end up with: " I'd like to thank my parents, Ayn Rand and God."


Thai people traditionally eat with a fork and spoon, but Thai restaurants almost always put down chopsticks. I assume this is for ignorant white people, who probably get red-faced and demand chopsticks so their meal will be "authentic." If you see someone eating with chopsticks at a Thai restaurant (and eating traditional Thai food, not Singapore noodles or something), openly mock them.

I didn't know this. 

I participated in this contest one time. The picture was in what was obviously a restaurant kitchen, with a nude woman standing on a table in the middle of the room playing a string (stand-up) bass. I can't remember exactly the other characters in this thing, but there was I think a chef yelling at a waiter or a cook. I had him say, "I said 'striped bass'!" And what was the winning entry? "There's always time for cello." I almost canceled my subscription, and I've been a New Yorker devotee my whole life.

They almost always pick the wrong winner; but I guess that's the public's doing.  

I'm in need of your "expert" medical advice. I've had a weird rash/skin discoloration on the upper half of the back of my hand for almost a month now. It's never spread and kind of seems to be getting better (skin that was red has now dulled to a dark, tanned color, and areas where the skin was flaking off is now pink, like new skin). But it's also been a month and I'm still dealing with it. How long should one wait in this instance before seeing a doctor? I don't hate doctors, I just hate waiting for them. P.S. If it sounds like a sunburn, it kind of looks like one. Except it's literally this small area of my hand that starts with a well-defined horizontal line through the middle of the back of my hand and goes just to the middle knuckles. I have it no where else! Oh, and it never hurt; it just itches when the skin gets dry and flaky.

Sorry, dermatology is one specialty with which I am unfamiliar and therefore reluctant to commit malpractice in.  I'm much more willing to commit malpractice in neurology, cardiology or psychiatry.   Do you have any probems in those fields?

Is it just me or is this pope somewhat reasonable?

Seems to be, but don't tell him I said so.   I want him to feel he's still on probation with me. 

Have you ever encountered a German "shelf" toilet? I haven't. Apparently, they aren't as popular anymore. Each time I read about them, the author always mentions that it allows the user to examine the feces to retrieve rings and the like. But, really, how is this a problem?

According to Marc Fisher, who lived there for years, Germans are obsessed with feces as a medical indicator.  It's not about retrieving rings. 

Woman's perspective here: Creepiness is the difference between Weiner and Spitzer. Spitzer had a perfectly white-bread sexual dalliance (though the prostitution part cranked it up a notch), but Weiner's thing is just creepy. Sending lewd images to women you don't know is serious red-flag behavior; continuing to do it after it ruins your and your wife's lives and reputations is the mark of a disturbed, predatory individual.

I'm not sure "predatory" is the right word.   I think it's more pathetic than evil.  That's what he is, more than anything else: Pathetic.

If you're wearing a thong solely to avoid panty lines, you've overlooked about 90% of the panty market. Today's seamless bikinis, boyshorts, cheekies, tangas, and various other coverings are all more comfortable and flattering.

I don't know what any of these things are, but thank you.   I might know what a cheeky is. 

After the first two sentences my eyes glazed over and my brain went numb, because it was like reading a word problem in algebra.

I am actually surprised no one noticed it was funny.  Caitlin Gibson noticed it was funny, and profound.   She's my go-to lady on literature.  She and Gina. 

I can see what you mean by the surgeon being the speaker. The motion lines are about his head moving but the way his jaw is angled back does suggest his mouth is open (even assuming for a big cartoonish nose). The little stretch mark on the mask would suggest similarly.

Honestly, there's no doubt about who is talking.  It's a cartooning convention, and very clear.   The ONLY reason to have those lines is to signal -- this is the talker.   

(the thong bits, esp.)

You know, it DOES occur to me, now that The Post has a new executive editor, AND the chat has a new producer in Ryan "Machine Gun" Kellett -- possibly we can attempt, once again, to visit the unvisiteable poll question.  I shall make discreet inquiries.   

As I am experiencing a run of mysterious health problems with my dog, I have a whole new respect for the difficulty of being a veterinarian and definitely believe they should be paid better. At least a human doctor can ask his or her patients about what is troubling them. My vet has to address many of the same health conditions with a patient who can't talk and stubbornly refuses to do anything other than sit and wag his tail while in the office.

Also, human doctors generally don't have to worry about getting bitten by their patients.   


So Gene, once again, you're going to ignore the followup questions about your position on marriage? Let me repeat. Last month, you once again asserted that marriage without children is pointless. And once again, I ask, what about legal status as next of kin? What about inheritance law?

I have answered this,  but will answer again in the updates. 

Thank you all, and a quick note:  "Ink of the Day" is a great feature of the Invitational; a great entry from the storied past, one a day.  If you Like it on Facebook, you'll be notified daily.

Okay, see yalls 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.

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