Chatological Humor: Monthly with Moron (December)

Jan 06, 2015

Gene Weingarten held his monthly chat with readers.

About this chat:
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Good afternoon, and Happy New Year.

I am going to reverse engines and begin today with a few small personal matters, then segue into a HUGE historical discovery I made that will so enthrall you that you will all rewrite your wills to make me a beneficiary.

We begin with a personal shout-out to Ms. Betsy Rothstein, erstwhile editor of the website FishbowlDC, which trafficked, under her tutelage, in vicious, sleazy, snide, disreputable, unscrupulous, vacuous, wildly immature, gratuitously cruel, malicious and mean-spirited media-gossip that specializes in innuendo, reckless character assassination and unconscionable, wanton defamation.

Betsy has moved on and is now working for the uber-conservative website The Daily Caller, which is run by bowtied young conservative Tucker Carlson, and which carries entertaining stories such as one it ran yesterday, titled "Concealed Carry Tactics to Neutralize a Home Invasion."   This story tells you where to keep your gun for quickest access when a sullen looking white guy with a butcher knife breaks in.   (Actual hint: Consider carrying your gun on your person at all times in your home, even, presumably, when pooping.)

But I digress.   Yesterday, Betsy wrote a little piece about me, based on a tweet that I twote on Sunday night, before going to bed.   Here is her item

So, I'm addressing Betsy now.   Kid, this is going to be a little embarrassing, but I sorta have to clear the record here, even if it has to be a bit at your expense.   It is apparent to everyone that you believed my tweet, and that was a little naive of you.   I write a lot of things on my Twitter feed and I do not intend them all to be taken literally. 

So, just for the record: That item was a joke.  I was kidding.  I didn't intend it to be taken seriously.  The fact is, I would NEVER reverse my Prince Albert.  

Okay, good.


Next, I want to share with you a Christmas present I got from Molly.   Here I am modeling it. 


Third, continuing in the theme of my issue, Dan and I were working on Barney & Clyde on Sunday when he happened to glance at the Sunday funnies.   He snorted in contempt at "Lio," threw it over to me and said "can you BELIEVE this crap?"  

I looked.  Saw no problem.

"It's preposterous," he said, and explained.

Do you see a problem? 


Here comes the explanation.

"If he's hydrating that insanely, he'd never have yellow pee."


Okay, history.

I spend some time on the Web (okay, a LOT of time) noodling around, and much of my noodling is historical.  I recently discovered something -- a tiny chapter of World War II -- about which I'd never heard.  Essentially, it is the story of the bravest man in World War II.   The fact that he happens to be the son of an American president elevates this into something quite extraordinary.

Ted Roosevelt, Theodore's goofy-looking oldest son, was a U.S. military official and for a time before World War II was governor general of the Philippines and Governor of Puerto Rico. He was assistant secretary of the Navy.  He ran for Governor of New York as a Republican, losing to Alfred E. Smith.  He was hated by Franklin and Eleanor.     In civilian life, he was chairman of the board of American Express and a corporate exec at Doubleday.   For World War II he became a brigadier general.   He was a very accomplished man, and no doubt had some famous-son worries: How much had he earned on his own?  What was due to his father's fame?

Come the middle days of World War II, Ted Roosevelt made it quite clear what he was in his own right.

He asked for permission to be with the invading army.  Not behind the lines, not in the third wave, after a beachhead had been established and defended.  He asked to be on the first wave to hit the beach.  Not surprisingly, this request was denied.  The man was 56 years old.  He was severely arthritic, and walked with a cane.  He had ominous heart problems. The idea was preposterous.

So Roosevelt wrote a personal letter to his commanding officer, Major General Tubby Barton.  It came straight from the heart, but it was canny, too.  He made the case that he could literally save lives, not only with tactical smarts, but psychologically.  Roosevelt, historically, was so warmly regarded by his troops that he actually was once reprimanded by George Patton, who felt it was unprofessional.  In his letter, Roosevelt used that reputation to his advantage, suggesting his mere presence would raise morale :

This is an excerpt (from Wiki):

"The force and skill with which the first elements hit the beach and proceed may determine the ultimate success of the operation.... With troops engaged for the first time, the behavior pattern of all is apt to be set by those first engagements. [It is] considered that accurate information of the existing situation should be available for each succeeding element as it lands. You should have when you get to shore an overall picture in which you can place confidence. I believe I can contribute materially on all of the above by going in with the assault companies. Furthermore I personally know both officers and men of these advance units and believe that it will steady them to know that I am with them."

Barton approved the request, certain he would never see the man again. 

And so Ted Roosevelt, 56, stormed Utah Beach with the very first wave of troops, and was one of the first men to walk off his landing craft and into Nazi fire.   He was the only general to be at the D-Day landing, and (by at least 20 years) the oldest person in the invading army.  Hobbling with his cane, he somehow made it through the surf, past the machine gun fire, onto the beach. 

The landing had been a mile off target.  He declared, "We'll start the war from right here, then," and did.  He personally performed reconnaissance, walking the besieged beachhead with a cane and a pistol at his side, plotting the move inland, coordinating troop positions.   His military expertise was valuable, but what he did for the spirit of the landing force -- Teddy's son!  Our here with us! -- cannot be oversold.  He personally met every regiment as it arrived in wave 2, 3, 4 and 5, on Day 1, 2, 3 and 4.  He is said to have cheered the men with stories of his dad. 

When Major General Barton arrived on Utah Beach on day four, he was stunned to find Roosevelt there.   He later remembered:

(also per Wiki)

"While I was mentally framing [orders], Ted Roosevelt came up. He had landed with the first wave, had put my troops across the beach, and had a perfect picture (just as Roosevelt had earlier promised if allowed to go ashore with the first wave) of the entire situation. I loved Ted. When I finally agreed to his landing with the first wave, I felt sure he would be killed. When I had bade him goodbye, I never expected to see him alive. You can imagine then the emotion with which I greeted him when he came out to meet me [near La Grande Dune]. He was bursting with information."

Ted Roosevelt, Jr. died one month later, still in Normandy, in a captured German truck.   He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

How amazing were his last 30 days on Earth?  When being interviewed for his memoirs, Gen. Omar Bradley was asked to specify the single bravest performance in combat that he had ever seen.  Bradley didn't even have to think about the answer, even though in his career he had commanded 1.3 million men, more than any other American military leader in history.  He said: "Ted Roosevelt at Utah Beach."


Okay, and finally, I cannot remember where I found this or why, but look at this tattoo!!    I know it's ingenious.  I'm not sure if it is completely tasteless, or not.

If you haven't taken the polls, please take em now.  Chat begins noon sharp. 


Poll 1: What grade would you give Cynthia in Sunday's Barney & Clyde? Please be ready to defend your grade in class in the chat.


Poll 2: By public demand, this an extension of the fascinating Gary Hart discussion we had a few weeks ago. This poll has a male/female split.



I was just leafing through an idiot item on things no woman over 30 should wear, and understood almost none of the rationales.  This one totally mystifies me:

"Big hoop earrings."

According to this site, only women under 30 can "pull this off."  Can anyone splain?

Thank you for sharing that story about Ted Roosevelt. I had never been taught that or even seen anything on it until now. That seems like the kind of story that would be told. Any idea why that story had not been more widely disseminated. It could be an American Legend in the way Teddy and the Rough Riders are.

I have no idea!  Obviously it is not UN-known, but it was new to me and I'm pretty good on American history. 


Okay, coming back here after answering this.  Another chatter says that Henry Fonda played Ted Roosevelt on The Longest Day.   Never saw the movie, but IMBD confirms.  So maybe this was not exactly lost to history!


Back again.  Yet another poster confirms that he gets some screen time, including walking onto the beach with his cane.  So. 

The kid clearly ran out of pee and is hydrating to finish his message. We have no reason to think, or even expect, that he was hydrating like mad before starting his message. It's actually funnier this way, because all of us who pee standing up have tried to write things in the snow and run out of ink.

I will admit that is an alternative explanation.  But he won't be able to finish the message!

I nearly died laughing reading this, since Patton's middle name was unprofessional. His men hated him, and not without cause.

Right!   George F. Patton !

Was just having a very timely conversation with Cait Gibson about the first day of snow: It reminds you about how many dogs are peeing all over your neighborhood every day, AND it is possible to get a rough idea of the proportion of boy dogs and girl dogs.

Girls leave a dot, boys a line. 

She gets an F. You'll note that Rauchenberg started off with a work that was clearly-established as already existing, and with merit behind it (even if the merit was "created by someone already notable"). Thus, even though the preexisting drawing is erased, it still exists in a diminished form, so there is proof that it actually did exist; to be erased (SFMOMA has even done some modern detective work to try to image what it originally was). Provenance makes the difference: an empty digital file is just plain nothing, and we'll leave that mental exercise to another time. No, Cynthia is just a poser, someone that aspires to be, but without the inspiration to make it on her own. A cut-rate smartass, in other words. If she wanted that A from me, she'd have to forge her own path of smartass-ness. Let's brainstorm some ideas that would earn her an A. My thought: obtain her teacher's thesis paper (we're assuming for this thought experiment, that the teacher has a thesis to her name), print it out, burn it, then turn in the charred remains.

I agree entirely, 100 percent, with your rationale here, but not with your grade.   My Lord, this is an 11-year-old thinking gloriously out of the box !   You do not squash that impulse, you reward it, but urge more.  

i once pulled a similar stunt in geography class -- we were to create a menu for a restaurant in the British Commonwealth (while remaining blissfully unaware of British food), and we were supposed to create prices in British pounds, learning unit conversions. I made an all-you-can-eat restaurant with one price, for which I got a B. However, Cynthia gets a D. She gets better than an F, because she showed knowledge of the subject. Works by Rauschenberg and de Kooning have known context and perceived value, but a work by Pillsbury lacks this value. Also, to correctly reproduce the concept, she should have written out the essay by hand and allowed it to be appreciated by another person who would then diligently erase the essay -- but then, she would not have doner own work. Naughty girl, on all accounts. Plus, she is a billionaire heiress, so to hell with her and her 0.1% privilege.

Again, this is about right, but D is also not the right grade.   Cynthia gets a B, possibly a B plus.  I will explain why below. 


F. The assignment is to produce a paper on abstract expressionism, not to produce abstract expressionistic artwork. It would no more garner an 'A' than an apple would to describe Newtonian physics.

Okay, I am going to be printing some of your grades and explanations here.    This explanation earns an F.   You do not grade a paper on abstract expressionism through hidebound, linear thinking, which is exactly what you are doing here.

I gave her a "D" for a creative story about why she didn't do the assignment. If she could give me proof that she had indeed written something and then erased it, then I would give her an A. Of course this is the first time I've ever heard about the Rauschenberg "art" which seems pretty silly to me.

It was not "silly" anymore than Duchamp's 'fountain" (he submitted a urinal to an art show) was "silly."  Some modern art is very largely about the idea.  Both ideas advanced the argument about what constitutes art.

And that, folks, is why Cynthia should get a B.  She gets a LOT of credit for 1) knowing the history of abstract expressionism  2) thinking outside the box, and 3) creating a mystery, with questions, as part of the art.  (Did she actually write something at all?  Does it matter?  Should it matter?)

She loses one letter grade for execution.  It doesn't ultimately hold together.   What should she have done to get an A?

She would have had to obliterate something on topic that was not hers, and was very good.   I think what I (at 63, not 11) might have done is get some expert on abstract art -- who, like deKooning, would be going along for the stunt -- to write me a paragraph on the meaning of abstract art. 

Presumably, it would be on a computer.  Then I would print it out and painstakingly cover it all in Wite-Out.   I would declare that that is what I had done, when I handed it in.  This would create a dilemma for the teacher: Does she erase some of the Wite-Out to see if I am telling the truth, and by doing so, destroy the "art"?  

In fact, does it matter if I actually covered anything at all?

There's my A.

Actually, someone could be hydrating like that and still have very yellow (nearly orange) urine. A harmless over the counter substance called phenazopyridine effectively helps relieve bladder pain associated with urinary tract infections. The side effect is dark yellow-orange urine which stains everything it contacts. It made me laugh thinking of the possibilities...


Gene...I read the RS UVA story, as well as a lot of the follow-up criticisms of it. I'm having a hard time understanding what the reporter/editors did wrong. I'm not a journalist, so could you maybe just bullet-point a couple of the more egregious errors? Thanks.

I'm hoping you are not a troll.

They did almost nothing by way of confirmation.  They were essentially publishing a completely unconfirmed allegation. They made no credible effort to reach the boys allegedly involved, to hear their side of the story.  They did no meaningful checking of the background of the woman, nor did they talk to her friends, the ones who she claims urged her not to file charges.  

They failed 100 percent as journalists.

The story has almost completely fallen apart.  It is not even clear there was a party that day.  The story she told that day to friends turns out to be very different from what she told RS.


What drives your animus for the term "reach out?" I find it harmless and don't mind when it shows up in email or other documents.

Oh, it is horrible.  Horrible. 

The only reason you don't mind it is that you are a callow youth and don't know any better.  You don't know of its ignominious history.

"Reach out to" used to be only the province of new-age and 12-step.   When you "reached out" to someone, you clasped them to your bosom and offered moral support.   It is a term of often-phony emotional connection. 

Somehow, quite recently, some awful people started using it as a synonym for "tried to contact."  Or "telephoned."  

It is especially calling to older journalists because the very last thing we want to do with a source or a subject of a story is "reach out" in the squishy, phony 12-step way.   We want to give the scum a chance to respond to what we found, or whatever.  We want to call the senator and ask if she's sleeping with Derek Jeter.  We do not want to "reach out" to her.


Maybe I am getting to be a curmudgeon, but "write a paper" is an unambiguous assignment. No paper = F. Now, if the assgnment said to "create something" that was abstract expressionism, Cynthia gets an A. By the way, I thought the humor of the strip came from the dynamics between the teacher and principal. The teacher gets to show how much she knows about her field, making the grade decision particularly thorny. The administrator offers no advice, "hoping" the teacher already has an answer. This rings so true to me as a college professor. We're supposed to seek input from administrators, who we routinely believe lack content expertise, are spineless and indecisive, and have been peter principled into their jobs. I thought the strip was very funny.

You're right about the engine of the joke, but you are pretty crabbed in your requirements for an A.

I was once told the probably apocryphal story of a philosophy professor whose final exam consisted of one word written on the blackboard.  It was "Why?"

After 45 minutes, he collected the papers.  Most were filled with bullzit.   All of those papers got a C.   One student wrote, simply,  "Because."   She got a B.   And one other student wrote "Why Not?"   He got an A.  Part of the lesson learned was concision.

After doing time in DC I moved back to Montana, where real cows and real men roam. To the best of my knowledge you have never said anything offensive about cowboys. What are you afraid of?

I hate Cowboys.   Especially Romo.

I just stumbled on this. I think it may be the weirdest, least necessary thing I've ever seen.

I stumbled across that a couple of years ago.  Yes, useless is a very good description of it.  It also contains the worst photo ever taken of me.

Easy F. The worst kinds of Barney and Clyde are the ones where you seem to go out of your way to try and show you're smart/well-educated/etc. Ends up coming across as painfully self-congratulating.

You found this one so? 


I've been reading a lot about the Roosevelts lately, and I feel the need to point out that the hatred between the Hyde Park (FDR) and Sagamore Hill (Teddy) sides of the Roosevelt clan was mutual. Poor Eleanor--niece of Teddy, wife of FDR--was somewhat caught in the middle. As FDR started his political career, both sides acted like jerks. VERY interesting, all around.

I love that it also involved the classic rift, politics.  The Democratic side v. The Republican side.

It's interesting that by today's standards, Teddy the Republican would be a pinko.   Hugely liberal.   To the left of Obama by a LOT.    In most regards.

No, because it is crap. Large hoop earrings can suit anyone with striking features.

Good.  Thank you.   I have always like them on The Rib.

Thought of you when a crime author on NPR listed the Errol Morris book about "Fatal Vision" as her favorite true crime novel, instead of In Cold Blood. Between that and Marc Theissen claiming victory on torture, which makes you weep louder.

Yeah, that Thiessen thing really frosted my shorts !!  To conclude that Dems lost the torture debate on the grounds that the public agrees with the torture proponents goes a bit beyond disingenuous to dishonest.

The American public would have been very, very much against integration and affirmative action in 1959.   The entire SOUTH would have endorsed slavery in 1858.    The fact that 68 percent of the country approved of the Vietnam War in 1966 doesn't mean it was right.   

Morality is not subject to a vote.  

As far as Errol Morris:  If the woman actually listed it as her favorite true crime "novel," she is of course an idiot.  It was a deeply flawed manifesto.  There was nothing fictional about it, other than its errors of fact and omission.  

The Errol Morris book was dreadful.  As were the two pieces  on the subject in Slate by Evan Hughes.   The first was naively impressed by the book; the second was writhingly trying to defend the first in the face of my story and Joe McGinniss's.

Is there anyway to tell if people who chose one of the options in the first question ignored the directions and went ahead and selected options in the second question? I'm surprised by the number of people (especially women, at least as of early Monday afternoon) who said they would likely never publish an affair of a U.S. senator. I'm wondering if they said that and then saw some of the options in question two that they then picked. Because otherwise I have a hard time seeing how anyone doesn't think it's news that a senator used public money or because of hypocrisy or, well, most of the reasons listed in question 2.

If people answered correctly, then if you said you'd almost always consider it news, those options in the second part wouldn't matter -- you'd pick em all, anyway. 


In many of your columns, especially Gene/Gina columns, you (and Gina) basically preclude the idea that a straight man can have any ideas about clothing. I present a scenario: A man of about your age, maybe older. He has been married to a woman for at least twenty years, and often mentions how much he loves his wife. Once, at a garage sale, he discouraged me from buying a piece of clothing because it "wasn't my color" (I am a young woman). He made a persuasive case. His own dressing habits are sloppy and repetitive (cargo pants anduntucked buttoned shirts). For what it's worth, he is a professional actor. Weighing all the evidence, what are the chances that this man is gay? (Okay, I'm not really making a point; I'm just curious.) (Dear God I hope I have been vague enough.)

I'm only publishing this because it puzzles me.   I see no reason to assume the man is gay.

Please understand, Gina and I debate in broad generalities.  It is necessary because to qualify everything would make for a tedious column.    In short, neither of us believes that NO straight man observes clothing.  

You are referring to this recent column. 

I didn't realize you were such a philistine, Gene. Ted Roosevelt's story is told in the blockbuster D-Day movie. He is played by Henry Fonda.

Yes, yes.   We have established this.  

My (same sex) husband and I had the pleasure of attending a traditional(ish) Jewish wedding last month, but only 1 of the 2 grooms was Jewish. The other groom was originally from Puerto Rico. The optional yarmulke were bright purple. At the reception, they segued from the traditional chair dance to Latin salsa. It was fabulous to see how they blended their cultures, but even more fabulous to see 2 Jewish parents and 1 Puerto Rican mother over joyed to see their sons legally married.

Very nice.

I attended the White House Chanukah celebration last month (column to come) and briefly toyed with the idea of getting a special yarmulke made for the occasion.   It would have said "Press" on it, in Hebrew and English.  

I couldn't decide between a grade of A or F. In the end, I decided it was plagiarism and chose F.

Goodness.   It's a lot of things, but not plagiarism.  If anything, it is reverent homage.

Hi Gene -- just wanted to say hi and happy new year -- this is the third country (outside of the US) from which I'm writing you. I've been a loyal chat follower since the initial days -- now I'm in Abuja, Nigeria :) -- so just a quick hi. Also, the tat is weird -- as a Christian, it's weird -- it seems extreme, gross, and, well, I don't know, just kinda makes the whole crucifixion thing the biggest deal -- when, at least in mainline churches, the resurrection is. But then again, I don't really like tattoos either. So what do I know.


But, boy it is riveting, no.

Ooop.  Haha.   An accidental pun but I am keeping it in there.

I'm female, a feminist, left-ish and in my mid-50s. Old enough to remember Fanne Fox, Donna Rice, Rita Jenrette, and the parade since. (Not old enough to remember Christine Keeler, but I learned about it from the Kinks.) I would authorize the investigation under only a few circumstances, so I picked the "virtually no" circumstances option. However, 5 of the circumstances you listed were among the ones that would qualify as the basis for an investigation. Affairs qua affairs are not important. It's only if there is hypocrisy, professional norms, public funds, or a benefit to the affair partner involved. I would not have investigated Gary Hart's affair with Donna Rice, or Monica Lewinsky. Some of JFK's affairs probably would have had to be investigated. George HW Bush's alleged long-term affair - probably not, given what we know, even though there is some hypocrisy involved. If it's just sex, I don't care about it. It's between the politician and his/her partner/spouse. I think that most of the political affairs that take place are not that interesting or important, and thank god, they don't get reported on.

I get your point, and agree with you totally, but have to take issue with your vote.  "Virtually no" means virtually no, and if five very general categories satisfy your requirements, that ain't "virtually no."  

Although this tattoo is "tacky," it's not tasteless. Of course, I find the whole concept of tattooing in modern culture tacky, but this tattoo is no tackier than any others. That being said, I think it is beautiful, ingenious and obviously a heartfelt expression of religious belief.

Yeah, I tend to agree.

Also, it is trompe l'oeil.

Pfft on The Medal of Honor. If I was that goofy looking, the real honor would be being portrayed by Henry Fonda. When they write me into a movie, I'll probably get Stephen Furst, aka Flounder from Animal House.


Hey, there was an interesting result in there.

By a significant difference, more women tend to feel that the simple fact of an affair is NOT newsworthy.  I expected the opposite.

Also, I agree with those who basically feel that you need a significant PUBLIC POLICY voter-needs-to-know reason to declare it a story.    There are a lot of such factors, for me: Basically all of those mentioned except 1) gay, even if not publicly anti-gay  2) extra betrayal, like wife of best friend  and 3) much younger.  

Here's where I think you all are being disingenuous.  I hear why you are SAYING that "extra tawdry" wouldn't qualify, because that's making classist judgments.  But in fact, if you were the Wapo editor, it would.  It crosses a line in terms of recklessness.   Can you IMAGINE if the U.S. Senator was having an affair with a prostitute?   Or a porn star?   It becomes news, sorry.

I was really surprised that men were more eager to outt a philanderer (at least she I looked at the results).. Did it surprise you?

Yep, as I said.   I'd love for some women to discuss why. 

Especially since the country was being lied to about what was happening in Vietnam.

I really hated that Thiessen column.

You know, (he'll hate this) you could make an argument that that column itself was immoral.


I have been back in the area for 48 hours and haven't yet seen a welcome from a certain funny double Pulitzer winner. Signed, Pantsless Producer Liz

Indeed.  Liz is back in town, though not working for The Post.  All is right with the world again.    Hi, kid. 

But deleted it, so you're stuck with this.


After a lot of hemming and hawing, I gave her an A. It seemed wrong to, as she obviously didn't really ever write an essay. But to me, essay means writing knowledgeably on a topic. If she knew enough on expressionism that saying an erased essay was expressionism, then that works. I did think for a while that it all depended on whether she knew that there was this existing erased artwork or whether it was just the teacher who knew about it, but again, I don't think that matters. If she knew enough about expressionism in general to know that saying an erased item could be art, then I think she succeeded at the essay.

Clearly, she knew.  I agree with this, and you hit a very interesting point: DO we know that she never wrote an essay?  Cynthia is a very intense little girl. 

The assignment was to "write a paper" on abstract expressionism. If the assignment to was to create a representation of abstract expressionism then she would get an A.

Again, this is the very worst argument.  I wouldn't want you for a teacher!

As a women's basketball fan, I've been meaning to submit this for at least a year.

That is excellent !   I don't think I've ever seen that name before!  I guess a version of Ariel?

Since when is Catholicism not a mainline church? We Catholics LOVE the crucifixion!

Thank you!  That seemed all wrong.

Yeah, I remember being un-surprised when the Vatican publicly loved The Last Temptation of Christ.   It was roundly cricitized as having almost fetishized the agony of the crucifixion, and the pope, after a private viewing, basically said Bravo.     (This was JP2, and I think he said "It is as it was." )

Don't know the reason for the age limit but my daughter's college roommate used to say "the bigger the hoops the bigger the 'ho."

I shall inform The Rib.

It's a nice little world these artists have made for themselves and a pretty good con. If someone points out the absurdity of their (not)art they are derided as Philistines and uneducated heathens that can't recognize genius when it's put right in front of them. So everyone just follows along saying how great the "art" is because who wants to be part of the great unwashed masses.

There is some truth to that, though, to me it applies more to much modern poetry. 

Erased DeKooning gets me thinking in productive ways, as does Fountain.  I have no problem calling them brilliant.

I'm not a troll; thanks for the answer.


Possibly the women think harder about their positions since men tend to accuse them of taking things personally when they register an objection.


Is it possible that both for men and women, there is a voice inside urging you to answer in a way that is inconsistent with the stereotype?  In other words, men are afraid of looking as though they are condoning infidelity, and women are afraid of looking like tight lipped tut-tutters?

There's a lot of evidence that he didn't say anything at all about it, but somebody made that quote up.

Really?  Okay.  

It's interesting what sticks in the mind. 

Gene, I have a young boy and am expecting a baby girl in the next couple of months? Any quick tips in raising both genders?

Whenever they are around, talk "wrong."  It's a great practical joke to play on a kid, for what will happen on their first day of school.

(Not me.  George Carlin, I think.)

Is this today's version of the preppie circle pin on the peter pan collar that was supposed to indicate virgin or whore by which side it was worn on?

Never heard of that.  

I grew up having been told -- and believing -- that if a girl's pants "rode up" it meant she wasn't a virgin.   You know, that really only takes a millisecond of critical thought to expose as a fallacy.

In 10th grade I rallied my class to declare "I'd prefer not to" when assigned an essay on Herman Melville's short story. It worked, we didn't have to write the essay.


That is great.   It WORKED?

She obviously demonstrated she knows enough about Abstract Expressionism to discuss it at a cocktail party in 10 years, and that's good enough for me.

Also, put yourself in the position of the teacher.   Think about the 20 completely dreadful papers she will have to read -- 11 year olds trying to pretend to understand Abstract Expressionism.   Now here comes a kid who actually DOES.

Especially since the Internet. I'm horrified by how many people really thing that Adm. Yamamoto uttered the closing line of "Tora! Tora! Tora!"

That reminds me!  I have another great historical fact for next month.  This one is DEFINITELY less well known.  It involves Tojo.

Totally agree.

The tragedy of this is that it doesn't bang off the ears of yoots.  Smart yoots.   Young yoots.   JOURNO yoots.

Any idea what its circulation is? The charm of this dreary mashup of Ziggy and the Addams Family eludes me.

Lio has limited itself to extinction. 

No words, one joke.   You just can't keep running that out there.

Joh Paul II and the Catholic Church did NOT love The Last Temptation of Christ -- that was the movie based on Kazanzakis' novel, and was widely despised by Catholics. You're talking about The Passion of The Christ. This is the second time I've corrected you today. Don't make me come over there.


It's called something like "observed preference." Like when a North Carolinian would be asked by a northern liberal newspaper's reporter whether he would vote for Jesse Helms or his African-American opponent. Polls had Jesse losing but he won handily.

Yeah, I can see that.

I think there might be another issue.  When these things come out, the women involved tend to be demonized, slut-shamed, etc.   It is grossly unfair that this happens because of HIS celebrity.

I am Jewish. Seeing that tattoo reminded me of something I've wondered about, so Gene, maybe one of your readers would know. Why is a cross a symbol of Christianity? People wear the as a necklace, but shouldn't the symbol have to do with the resurrection, not with the means of death? It seems to me that it's kind of like making an electric chair a symbol of one's religion. I don't mean to offend, but I honestly don't get it.

The great Bill Hicks had a riff about this: "Why do Christians wear crosses?  If Jesus came back tomorrow, do you think he's going to want to SEE a f------ cross?   It would be like Jackie Kennedy walking around seeing people wearing rifle pendants."

So how many of your poll-takers are like the general American public? Remember how the Repubs impeached Clinton over Lewinski and the press made the comment (several times) that most people wouldn't condemn Clinton over his affair(s) because they had done the same? As a woman I will confess to having my own personal bias as I had an affair with my boss. I don't think it was newsworthy as weren't famous or politicians or anything like that but I don't think other peoples affairs are newsworthy either. (this is anonymous, right?)

Yes, this is anonymous, Lucinda.

My feeling is that the default is that an affair is not newsworthy.  Though my threshold for making it newsworthy isn't all THAT high. 

I hope to hell your name isn't Lucinda.

To me, there's some connection between "women get hysterical once a month so they would be bad leaders" and "men are libidinous and think with their --cks so they would be bad leaders." The more mainstream media focus on the politics and issues and less on our human frailties, the more likely we are to see equitable representation in the future? Maybe?

There is some evidence that the tendency to cheat is irrelevant to the ability to lead effectively.

FDR, Eisenhower, JFK, Clinton... and Harding. 

Washington fans hate the Cowboys. Baltimore fans hate the Steelers. Philadelphia fans hate the Eagles.

Haha.  I like that.

Giants fans hate everyone.

Slavery was not only popular, it was affirmed by the Supreme Court. It also produced great results - the South had a very strong economy because of it. Doesn't make it right.

Well, exactly.  Roger Taney was an otherwise okay Justice, but he is historically among the worst because of Dred Scott.

I sent you the wedding picture you requested weeks ago....

You did?????   I did not see it, I think.   

Please re-send to gene.weingarten(at) with WEDDING PHOTO subj line

Did you say I could use it?  


I said "almost all circumstances" because of the way you framed the question -- specifying that the politician was lying to his wife. To me, that's the circumstance that makes it newsworthy, because if he's willing to lie to his spouse, he's probably not going to balk at lying to his constituents and they have a right to know about that. If they have an open relationship or the wife is looking away with a wink and a nod (I suspect this was the case with the Clintons, although of course, I can't prove that), then I really don't care. But that possibility was specifically excluded by the way you wrote the question.

Right.  And you answered correctly.   If you feel lying to one's wife is equivalent to lying in his public life, absolutely.  Then all the other questions don't matter.   An affair alone is newsworthy to you.   I disagree, but many people are with you.

So if it's with a prostitute or porn star, it's worse than if it were with a "normal" person? Like his wife's best friend?

I'm not saying worse.  Morally, it's not worse.  I'm saying more newsworthy.  Yeah, because it's spectacularly reckless.

Find me a jeweler who can conjure up the resurrection in one simple thing and I'm on your side. I don't think it can be done.

Right, I meant to mention that.  The cross is a very excellent clear image.

I am a man. (A gay man. Is that relevant?) I'm in agreement with the others who would only do it if there were something beyond the gossip factor making it newsworthy. Having sex with someone not your spouse, with no other complicating factors, doesn't reflect on someone's ability to do their job. (, never mind.) Incidentally, I really really hate the idea of outing people, unless they've worked to forward the anti-gay movement. Then I smirk because they totally deserved it.

I agree on your last point.  There is a very public person who I believe is gay, and who has never ID'd as gay, and I wish he had because I think it would enormously help the gay movement.  Enormously.  But I would never do anything to force that, or ever publicly express my thoughts about this person, because he is not in any way publicly anti-gay.  If he were, and doing harm to an important civil rights movement, I'd feel very differently

Best/simplest explanation is that 2000 years ago, most people couldn't read. The cross was used as shorthand, and its power has sustained. It's actually the same reason why a lot of us Christians don't take everything in the Bible literally, because orally transmitted stories can change until they're written down by the one person in that society who can do so.

Right.  It's very clear why a cross is a symbol.  It is hugely effective.

Since you seem to be a prescriptivist (cf. your complaints about the change in usage of "reach out"), do you have any comment on the bizarre rise of the "word" disembark? Why did "debark" fall out of favor?

Because it is worst than debite.

Catholics wear crosses as a reminder of the crucifixion (note the crosses usually have a corpus); Christ died for our sins. A Baptist friend once told me (I'm Catholic) that Protestant crosses don’t have a corpus because the resurrection has occurred and the cross is empty.

That's interesting !  Is it true?

General Roosevelt received little publicity because the FDR branch wanted none, and the General didn't fight it. Note: the longest surviving son of TR (Archie, I believe) was a total right-wing nut case, convinced Ralph Bunche was a Commie, and who was even to the right of some in the John Birch Society.


Thank you, Gene. The term "reach out" is so overused in the business world it makes me want to puke. Also, the constant references to "your team," being synonymous with "your employees" or "the group of people you work with." Sorry, boys, but I'm not playing a sport here, last I checked, my department is not the Washington Foreskins. I'll get emails that combine both: "why don't you reach out to your team and find out...." I've become so crazy annoyed with it, I'll send emails back that say "why don't you reach around to your team...." Probably unprofessional but I don't give a sh*t.

Hm.  I don't react the same way to "team."  You and your coworkers ARE a team.

I went with the standard that has been used by folks requiring security clearances: Is this information something that would make the politician susceptible to blackmail? If so, I'd print it, because he is holding a public office. I think it's relevant that he is exposing himself that recklessly.

I understand this too, but it's sort of unfair.  Being susceptible to blackmail and succumbing to it are very different things. 

I know this is off-topic, but the voting results are being released today. Curious to know where you stand on A) how to handle the PED-accused and B) Pete Rose (and I guess Shoeless Joe Jackson, too).

I'm really not sure about some of this.   I guess I'd put Rose in the Hall.  He's suffered enough and his sins didn't actually hurt the game.   The PED guys suck. 

Sir, you have besmirched the noble name of my late great-grandmother Lucinda! This cannot stand. I challenge you to a duel on the Mall at dawn. Choose your weapon.


Dang, you ruined your sublime little pun with a typo!


Is which true? And you're an atheist, so why are you even asking?

The distinction between crosses and crucifixes?  Is it whether it is about the crucifixion or the resurrection?  I am allowed to wonder.

I gave an A from personal experience. In college I took a freshman-level class on mythology. We took a field trip to a museum exhibit with many ancient Greek artifacts and we then had an assignment to write a paper on one of the objects. Having recently read a lot of Vonnegut, I jumped around in time as he did in his early novels. I started with the fellow who made an object and ended with me walking through the exhibit and picking my object to write about. The person who graded my paper added a paragraph about how most of these essays were awful but mine deserved an A+.


He hasn't suffered. He's unrepentant, as well. He should never be admitted to the hall.

But answer the second part.

How wrong was what he did, compared to people who really hurt the game for personal advantage?

because it was such a softball setup for you.

Noted.  We will end with this one, and yes, I have recently learned how to change your questions at will, and I edited yours.  Can anyone guess how?

See you in the updates.

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Gene Weingarten
Gene Weingarten is the humor writer for The Washington Post. His column, Below the Beltway, has appeared weekly in the Post's Sunday magazine since July 2000 and has been distributed nationwide on The Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service. He was awarded the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing.

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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