Chatological Humor: Monthly with Moron (September)

Oct 07, 2014

Gene Weingarten held his monthly chat with readers.

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.

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As most of you know, a week ago today Joshua Bell returned to a D.C. train station to give a performance that, unlike the first time, was advertised in advance. It was in part a promotion, both for a young artists group with which he played, and for the release of his new album.  But I believe it was also something else, something more important. I believe this performance was something Joshua had to do, for himself — for his emotional health. I’d like to talk about this a little. (This is my deconstruction only, not his.)

I don’t know whether Josh regrets doing the original stunt, but the results were complex for him. On one hand, it turned out to be a good career move: It pretty much made him the most famous violinist on the planet. He already was in the top tier, but this stunt elevated his profile in ways that neither he nor I had anticipated; the story went globally viral, spurred by a dumb, wildly inaccurate, but easily summarized anonymous post. It had a second ride when the story won a Pulitzer. Josh’s name became household, which is rare for a classical musician. So, that was undeniably good, but it was also, in a subtle way, very very bad. That’s because it made him the most famous violinist in the world for the wrong reason, something having nothing to do with his talent.

Think about that, and how it might bother an artist on an important level, make him begin to think of himself as not quite deserving of his fame — even something of a fraud.  

In the newsroom speech I gave after the Pulitzers were announced, I said this:

“When Josh and I first sat down to discuss this idea, he wondered what could go wrong.   And I explained that we weren't really equipped to handle crowd control, so conceivably his $4 million Stradivarius  might wind up in pieces no larger than a human pinkie toenail.   But that was not likely. More likely was that he would suffer the single most humiliating experience in his life, and though he would do his best to ignore it , this rejection would remain in his brain,  a little pulsing nugget of self doubt that would haunt him every day for the rest of his life. It would be there at every performance, nagging at him, until critics began to notice that something indefinable was missing from the great Joshua Bell.  His self confidence totally eroded, his career would collapse like a soufflé in an earthquake, until years later he would find himself at L’Enfant Plaza once again, a gin bottle in his pants, with a sign ‘Will Play for Food.’ ”

Well, that was all silly, of course.  But it turned out there was a different risk, a real one, which was what happened. The stunt at L’Enfant plaza became the defining element of Joshua Bell’s resume — defined not by him, but by others.  It has been the first thing he is asked about, by the media, by fans, by everyone. He plays before crowned heads of Europe, his abilities are world-class and improving, and yet he has been best known for this unnerving, impromptu event that, ultimately, was a punchline about being ignored.

I never anticipated any of this, and it made me feel bad when I began to hear back from others that this stunt I’d talked him into had left him with complicated misgivings.

Move forward to a week ago, today. A few minutes prior to his Union Station concert, I went backstage to say hello to Josh. Before I saw him, I heard him. The sound was unmistakably his -- lush and Byzantine-complex. He was standing alone in a big ballroom, facing a wall, about three inches away from it (the reverb helps him hear) and practicing a piece by Mendelssohn, the one he would finish with at the concert. I didn’t want to interrupt him, but I furtively took a picture.

Joshua Bell before his performance

He seemed very alone and intense, which is when it occurred to me he was nervous, which is when I first began to realize that this performance might have a special meaning for him, beyond simple promotion. That got confirmed a few minutes later when a representative of his timidly asked me a favor: When I introduced him, could I ask the crowd to remain silent as he played? It was important to Josh, she said.

I declined, for two reasons.  The first, I said, was that it would sound patronizing: Washington is a sophisticated city and understands the protocols of a concert.   The second was that it would be unnecessary — this was a self-selected crowd, people who came to see him for the right reasons, and who would be respectful.  But the request itself, and that guy against the wall, seconds before his performance, fanatically rehearsing to get it just right, told me something: He was scared about how he would be accepted, this second time around.    How can such a giant talent even think that way?   If you can ask that question, you have not observed many giant talents. Genius carries a price.

It didn’t all come together until I was watching Josh perform before the crowd: This had to be an important moment of closure for Joshua Bell— not a stunt, this time, but an announced performance in the same city, before the same demographic that had once treated him as though he were a nuisance. Would this be a triumphant repudiation of that first reception, or, somehow, an unnerving echo? He had to love the size of the crowd (it was SRO as far as they eye could see) but how would he be greeted and treated?  

It wasn’t until the end of his first Bach piece, when the place erupted in thunderous applause, and people shouted “Bravo” over the roar, that Bell’s faced seemed to relax into a broad smile. That is when I left the wings for the men’s room. I didn’t have to pee. I had to shed a tear, and I wanted to do it in private.

For Josh, I think the demon, or whatever it is, is gone.  And for me, no more guilt.


I don't know how much you know about radio, but it's probably more than I do, so you might know how essential good editing is.  I hadn't. Two weeks ago, NPR's Bob Garfield interviewed me about "Me & Dog" for his "On The Media" show. The interview, I thought, had not gone particularly well, mostly because of me. I had been tentative, disorganized, mealy-mouthed.  I left the studio not at all convinced it would ever air. It did, and when it came out I was stunned to discover that I had been absolutely masterful.  Coherent, concise, funny.   This is when I discovered the extreme importance of good editing in radio.  If you like this interview, you may give full credit to WNYC's Laura Mayer.    Purely on the strength of this interview -- played by Ms. Mayer like Joshua Bell plays Bach's Chaconne --  "Me & Dog" has become a children's-book bestseller on Amazon.

Thoughts on being at the longest playoff game in baseball history:

Molly and I arrived at the stadium at 4 o’clock, for a 5:30 start, so we were there for 8 hours.  During this time we watched the moon migrate across the night sky in a full arc, from the east edge of the stadium to the west edge.   The night went from 65 degrees to 52 degrees, a cold no one had prepared for; many people were in shorts and flip-flops.    People were using a terry cloth mini-towel that had been a freebie giveaway as a hang-down from  their hats, to give the neck a bit of meager protection from the wind.  By the late innings of this benighted experience, we as a crowd  were literally and emotionally numb.

After the Nationals’ dreadful performance in the ninth inning, a fatalism descended.   By inning 12,  people were visiting the bathrooms in droves, not because they had to relieve themselves (beer sales had ended in the seventh, tragically) but to grab a blessed minute or two of warmth.   There was no joy in those bathrooms.  Virtually no one spoke.  A sense of excitement had been replaced by a morose sense of duty.

I have read some criticism of the fans for leaving the stadium as the night dragged on, but I didn't see so much of that. The majority of the fans stayed.   They stayed because they could not leave and remain true to themselves. 

It occurred to me this situation is pretty much limited to baseball, one of the few sports (only tennis comes to mind) without a clock, a game that can theoretically never end, so that tests your endurance for pain and frustration, and tests, ultimately, your sense of faith and loyalty.   

Molly and I never for a moment discussed the possibility of leaving, even though my house is just a 20 minute walk from the stadium, meaning that, pragmatically, we'd probably have been able to watch the end of the game in warmth, on TV. 

The love of a baseball team has a religious feel to it, with all attendant doubts and uncertainties -- even the occasional feelings of cosmic betrayal.   We walked home in the chill -- me, Molly, and her boyfriend, Julien -- in a state of mental disrepair.   Molly kept saying "I'm just ... confused," as though baseball should follow basic rules of logic.  The best team wins, right?  Right?

It was a night to test one's faith.   Ours were tested.    We all watched yesterday's win on TV, together.  And we'll be watching tonight.

(Speaking of Divine Retribution, by far the best thing to happen to a Nationals fan that night came in this moment, in the middle of what was generally considered (fairly or not) a dreadfully biased night of pitch-calling by the home plate ump.)

Finally, I am in receipt of this photograph, taken by MIT professor Eugenie Brinkema in a ladies room at JFK airport.  

(Yes, Eugenie is daughter of Federal Judge Leonie Brinkema.)

And truly finally, do you think I am right that this here, a Sprint ad featuring adult women squealing like tweenies,  is the most offensive commercial aired in the last year or so?

Please take the polls.  I will admit, up front, that based on the results, I did seriously underestimate the number of people who have had naked photos taken of themselfs.   You guys !

The chat begins at noon sharp.



These polls were based on several posts following last month's chat. Readers contended that I am an old fud, AND a prude, and that I seriously underestimate the prevalence -- past and present -- of privately taken naked photographs.

Several people urged a poll. So here you go. Take only the version that applies to you.

POLL 1: Have you at least once participated in the production of photographs that fully bared your, or your partner's, private parts? (For the purposes of this poll, "private parts" for women include topless photos.) (Also, for the purpose of this poll, "photos" includes video or digital pictures. The key is that it is stored somewhere: A drawer, a DVD, a phone, etc.)

- Male under 40
- Male 40 and over
- Female under 40
- Female 40 and over

POLL 2: Let's say a naked photo of you got on the Web, and in some context where a relatively large number of people could and would see it. How humiliated would you be? (Let's say that this photo was taken at a time of your life when you looked your best; also that you would be identified by name.)

- Male under 40
- Male 40 and over
- Female under 40
- Female 40 and over

In the Post article on budget Spirit Airways, who pack their passengers in like sardines up the the FAA limit, it mentions that all seats are non-reclining. So I argue that I am paying extra for a reclining seat, and I am perfectly within in my rights to tip it back. 

I don't see why this is so hard for people to comprehend, and I do think that people like you who fail to comprehend it are selfish, boorish, me-firsters of the lowest order.    No offense.

Of COURSE it is your "right" to recline.  No one contests that.  Just as it is your right to fart in a crowded elevator or to attend a meeting stinking of B.O., or to park in a manner that takes up two parking spots, if you should so desire.  There is no LAW against any of those things.   It is your RIGHT to go to a country in the middle of a famine and loudly consume cake in front of the starving.    It is your right to approach someone in a wheelchair and show him how nimbly you can dance.

These are things no decent person does.  No decent person, trapped with others in the deeply claustrophobic atmosphere of coach airline traffic, reclines onto someone's face without permission.

. . .if this person (third paragraph from the end) was a toilet training expert rather than an associate research professor of ocean engineering. 

I was all prepared to make fun of your stretch, until I read the name.  My God, what a name.   Let's hope that he has at least one child, so has at some point been involved in toilet training.  Heck, he WAS a child at some point, so I declare him a perfectly valid situational aptonym. 

Also, I will not feel complete in life until "aptonym" is recognized as a word by computers, and no longer appears with a little line of red dots below it.

Men are more squeamish than women in these matters.

1. Call her "Mrs. Weingarten" and I cannot guarantee your safety.

2.  My wife is and has always been hot.  She never, ever ever would have countenanced a naked picture.  I know this because she didn't pose for photos, hardly at all, of any sort.  I think she's with the Native Americans on that one.

We're not lesbians, but he's a crossdresser and this will be FUN.

Thank you. 

I lied to my boss and told him I was going to a meeting so that I could attend the Joshua Bell concert. Does that make me guilty of workplace violins?

It does.  And terrible punnery.

Annoying, yes, but not "the most offensive." We women are bombarded by this kind of stereotypical crap all the time that it doesn't even register all that much. At least these are mature women and are allowed to be attractive and up to date fashion-wise. To this day, any commercial featuring a smiling and OH SO HAPPY, sexless-looking woman wearing khakis and a cardigan whilst wielding a mop or a toilet scrubber -- or a certain brand of laundry detergent -- and rolling her eyes with one of those "oh well, what CAN YOU DO about the kids and the husband and all their dirt which I LOVE to clean up???!!!!" still tops my list of the Most Offensive, hands down. These kind of commercials have not changed one bit since I was a kid seeing them in the 1970s. I hated them then, and although I couldn't articulate exactly why at the time, it just felt false and suffocating. (Note to the manufacturers of these products: If a 5 year old girl could see through the faux joy of housework you present, you really aren't convincing your target audience of adult women either.)

Noted.  Agreed.

I (middle-aged female) was not offended by the cell phone ad. The cell phone ad in which a woman screamed because there was a picture of a spider on the phone (AT&T, maybe 2011?) I found horribly offensive. But this one? Sure, it's silly to have a bunch of adult women scream like teeny-boppers at a Beatles concert over a cell phone. But you start down a slippery slope (OK, I admit it: a middle-aged female attorney) if you suggest that women must always act dignified and can't ever be portrayed as being silly or childish.

Noted.  Disagree.

What did you think about Dr. Krauthammer's diagnosis of President Obama?

What Colbert does to Krauthammer here is delightfully devastating.  He actually breaks character for maximum viciousness.

Just a perspective on the reader who indicated he and wife decided not to have amniocentesis done and your response that you could understand that only as an extreme religious stance. 25 years ago, having conceived what we figured to be our only child, at my wife's age then (39) the medical data told us that performing the amniocentesis was marginally more likely to cause a defect than it was to reveal a problem. Knowing that we were capable financially and tempermentally and by training to nurture a child within the ordinary ranges of Down Syndrome, we decided not to have the testing done because it was more likely to create a problem than to reveal an issue that would require us to take action. Obviously not a position for everyone to take, but the choice that appealed to us the most at the time and neither we not our daughter have any regrets. Not a decision based on opposition to abortion, but on an evaluation of the testing process, potential results and our choices after it was done.

I don't take issue in any way with the decision you made; it makes perfect sense, in context, though I am sure you know there is an internal Catch-22, which is that your wife's age makes Down much more likely than normal.   Still, if as you say the specter of Down wasn't a dealbreaker, that's irrelevant. 

Even in your circumstances, however, I would have gone the other way, for two reasons.   First, there are conditions far worse than Down Syndrome that amniocentesis identifies -- conditions that I suspect you would have found grave enough to abort.    There is a second reason that will get me in trouble, maybe, but here goes:

Typically, doctors warn that the risk of miscarriage or spontaneous abortion from amnio is roughly one in 300 to one in 500.    Those are not entirely reassuring numbers, obviously: Not sure I'd get on a plane if there was a 1 in 300 chance of a crash. 

But many years ago, a doctor confided something to me: The odds are a least a little distorted in favor of caution.  Legally, doctors don't want to over-promise safety, for obvious reasons.  No, these numbers aren't made up, exactly, but they result from an overly cautious interpretation of statistics.  

 A miscarriage tends to be statiscially blamed on the amniocentesis if it occurs within a certain number of days of the procedure (six, I think?).     In computing risk, this number is not adjusted, typically, for the average number of miscarriages that might happen within any given six-day period early in a second trimester.   So a certain percentage of those miscarriages attributed to the procedure would likely have happened anyway. 

Note:  This is old, anecdotal information given to me many years ago by one person.  If this is wrong, I would love to hear from knowledgeable experts, and will happily call bullzit on myself in this here space.


"But Keep Right Except to Pass would essentially turn two lane roads into single-lane roads, no? Congesting things?" Oh god, you don't drive correctly do you? Right lane is for driving, left lane is for passing. If it's congested - meaning you want to go faster than the car in front of you is going - then you get in the left lane and pass, then move back over when you're no longer passing anyone. It's neat and orderly, like the zipper merge. NOT doing that is what causes congestion - people driving side-by-side or passing soooooooooooo slowly that they develop a line of cars behind them. It's actually the law in most states, and makes for the most efficient highway movement, if people would actually DO it.

Wow.  This is interesting.  Your post actually filled me with road rage, sitting here at my dining room table.

I need to calm down a second.  Okay.  Good.

You remind me of the person who previously opined that it is his right to recline in an airline seat.  You are probably marginally less awful as a person, but your holier-than-thou pedantic misinterpretation of highway rules is probably more socially injurious than that guy's boorishness.   You need to be publicly crushed.  I shall now do it.

Interpreting "passing lane" as a lane to be used exclusively for passing would bring much traffic to a damn near standstill, which is why in most (but not all) states the "passing" lane is defined as to be used for passing or for traveling faster than right-lane-hugging slowpokes. 

From Wiki:

"Common practice and most law on United States highways is that the left lane is reserved for passing and faster moving traffic, and that traffic using the left lane must yield to traffic wishing to overtake.  The United States Uniform Vehicle Code states:

"Upon all roadways any vehicle proceeding at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic ..."

In other words, the only general restriction is not on those people traveling fast, but on you goody two-shoes slowpokes who aren't allowed, by law, to tie up the high-speed lane.   

It is true that several states (7, I think) have statutes saying the left lane is for passing only, but this is very seldom enforced for the obvious reason that IT WOULD MESS UP TRAFFIC BY CONVERTING TWO LANE ROADS INTO ONE LANE ROADS.    Driving would be a constant process of people like me driving for a quarter mile, having to slow down behind someone like you, check the left view mirror, signal, pull out into the left lane, pass you, merge right again until, another quarter mile later, I come up to another miserable you and have to repeat this process.  

So, in most states that still have that absurd statute on the books, the cops tend to interpret "passing" very liberally, as in, well, this guy is passing a whole lot of people on the left.  He doesn't have to tuck back in every time, since his whole trip is one constant act of passing slowpokes.

Okay.  I am done now.  You are 100 percent wrong. It would be good if you apologized to everyone.

It's pretty stupid, but I wouldn't go all the way to "offensive." It would be offensive if it suggested that all women squeal like tweens over consumer goods, but I don't get that vibe; it's more that these particular women are squealers, and they have to be unusual, because their screams go supersonic. People in commercials get unreasonably excited about products, and some commercials try to poke fun at the idea. (There was a beer commercial a couple of years ago set at a housewarming, where the lady showed off an enormous shoe closet and the gentleman showed off an enormous refrigerator full of the product. That was funnier.)

Okay, well good.   To me, the outrage was mostly about the age of the women.  Had these been 16 year old girls, no problem at all.  And same message.  But I suspect that marketing told Sprint they had to target 38 year old women. 

The commercial didn't actually bother me that much, though I'm never excited about phones - probably because it reminded me of this much funnier bit from Scrubs.

Okay, that is excellent. 

I preach heresy here to the baseball converted, but that Nats game is yet another reason why the baseball season needs to be shortened. By the time its season is wrapping up in October, overly long games can cause devoted fans, dressed for a mild fall day, to sit, shivering into the wee hours, waiting for their game to mercilessly end. Also, baseball's long season overlaps onto other sport seasons. And at 162 games long, the importance of a single game can't help but be diluted. Baseball should wrap up by the end of August or the beginning of September, not mid-October.

Good luck trying to get that done.   Hey, baseball, here's a great idea to decrease your profits by 25% !

... is the worst. It's offensive to me, as a female over 40, and to women in general. Yikes. No, we do NOT scream like little tween girls. Especially not over phones and phone plans. We might give a small squeak of joy and/or admiration over a new, cute phone CASE, however. But the phone and/or its plan? Hardly.

But it would be a demure and sophisticated squeak, right?

I too hate that Sprint commercial. It is senseless and offensive. It would have been a bad commercial even if they had used younger women who MIGHT be more likely to squeal like that. But more offensive than that commercial is the Subaru one where the dad takes his kid to the Grand Canyon and to see a giant redwood and the kid is underwhelmed. I know you've commented about commercials with children acting with superior ennui and entitlement. Have you seen this one? Comments?

I have no visceral reaction against this commercial because it IS underscoring a real problem in the digital, CGI age, where nothing real and natural seems quite as remarkable to yoots.   And I like the end.  The end is redemptive.   

Hi Gene: I'm trying (without success) to find the piece you wrote about Molly leaving for college. It ends with you throwing a baseball straight up, over and over. Could you post a link, if one exists? Pulitzer be hanged, that's my favorite of your essays. (In my head it is linked to another wonderful piece on parenting and loss, The Halloween of My Dreams by Marjorie Williams.) Thanks!

Here is my piece on Molly going to college.   I am glad that you did not literally mention by name it in the same sentence as Marjorie's piece, because it doesn't belong there.   I still tear up a little when I think about Marjorie Williams.  Look at the control she shows in this essay, as she is dying.

After the chat on Sept 2nd I have a newfound sympathy for those participants who are criticized for something they said. I wrote about people knocking on the door of the shower cubicle when it is locked and clearly in use. I DID NOT say I was taking a long, soapy shower. Gene did. In fact, the idea of a long shower is so foreign to me that it never occurred to me that people might think that is why I didn't want to hurry. I was merely trying to delicately refer to another thing people would do in a bathroom that wouldn't make it easy (or maybe even possible) to hurry! I thought, given the graphic nature of this chat at times, I would not need to make it more clear and that everyone's bowels tighten when someone is knocking on the door! Anyway, I don't think anyone at my gym is so rude as to knock on the door when they hear the shower running.


I call you out as a fraud.   (Man, am I hostile today.  I think it is because of the Gnats.)

Here, in its entirety, is your post from last chat:

"I use the family locker room in our gym. There are 6 shower rooms available, but only two have showers with removable shower heads on an 'arm' (so good for cleaning the undercarriage, if you know what I mean). These also happen to be the rooms with stools, so they are in demand. I try to go to the gym during slow times, but often someone will knock on the door. I don't understand it! The door is closed tightly. It is locked and the light is on. It makes me tense, as though someone is waiting expectantly for me to finish up and hurry out. Is this a realistic expectation? I was there first and I don't necessarily want to hurry! I usually answer something like "I'm in here" and I, no doubt, sound irritated. I feel as though my privacy is being invaded and it does not make me want to be cooperative."


That's it.  Are you telling us all, and expecting us to believe, that you were using "shower room" as a euphemism for "toilet stall," and you expected us to understand this??   You cannot be that disingenuous.   You supplied details of the shower.  You said, specifically related to your shower experience, "I was there first and I don't necessarily want to hurry."   What can that mean, in context, other than that you wanted to take a nice, long relaxing shower?   Why was it wrong of me to criticize such a sentiment in a situation when there are limited shower stalls and people waiting for them?

Here, in fairness, an in entirety, is my answer from last week:

"Well, I was with you until "I don't necessarily want to hurry."    It brings me to a similar situation, one which is a little similar to the seat-recline situation, and one which I have similarly strong views.


You are in a restaurant, at a table, with your family.   There is a line of people waiting for seats.  You are done with your meal, the check has been presented, but are leisurely relaxing and talking post-prandially, the way you like to do.   This is your right, and under most circumstances I would not criticize your exercise of it.  But with people waiting for tables, I contend it is rude to do it.   See, just like the plane, it is your RIGHT but exercising that right is selfish, sometimes.

Now, you are in a club with limited numbers of showers.  They are in demand.  I would argue that while it is your right to take a long, steamy shower, it is only a rude person who doesn't alter his behavior to accommodate others.

Is this other person rude for asking you to hurry?  Maybe.  But I think I might like him more than you.  Maybe.  Not sure.


Ooh, let's take a FLASH POLL about this, right here !!!! 

Your wife is dead on. Photos of anybody who is not a baby, soldier, politician, or sports star should be destroyed immediately.

Oooh, "Mrs. R."      Interesting.

Hi Gene! You may not remember me, but I wrote in to the chat in January 2008 to ask if there was any age at which it would seem socially bizarre to still be a virgin (I was 23 at the time, and desperately sad). I can't tell you how much your response of "It'll be fine, you'll be fine, and I'm not going to forward any of the 4,500 offers I am going to get in the next few days from guys who want to help you out of your predicament" meant to me. And it took me five years, but I finally met a guy who could not have cared less about my sexual inexperience. It's our two year anniversary this week, and I couldn't be happier or more in love. We were both at Joshua Bell's concert last week. And I've definitely sent him nude pictures. So, thanks for changing my life for the better, Gene. It meant the world, then and now.


Gene, I think you misinterpreted what the earlier poster was saying. Focus on the line "then move back over when you're no longer passing anyone." If you're still driving faster than everyone -- you don't move back over. Technically, you're still in the act of passing people! Only when someone comes up behind you -- thus rendering you no longer in the "driving faster" category -- do you need to get over. I drive on Interstates a lot. A LOT. I stay in the left lane unless one of two things occur: (1) someone comes up faster behind me, in which case I get over safely and then get back into the fast lane, or (2) there is no traffic for a while in either lane. I think you're hung up on the technical definition of the word "passing." To me, if I'm going faster than the cars I can see ahead of me, I'm PASSING. And stay in the left lane.

Well, that's the way the cops in the backward states interpret, but that's not how I interpreted what the poster was saying.

NPR's On The Media had a nice piece a few years back about the effort that goes into editing, say, Morning Edition.

I missed this, but will listen after the chat.  Garfield is good.  Does good work.

He subbed at the last minute for Anne Sophie Mutter at the KC shortly after 9/11. I believe he played the Four Seasons because he could play it with relatively little rehearsal. That showed what a mensch he was - to have a flexible enough ego that he was ok subbing for someone else, and that he was risking not being at his best because he was playing without much rehearsal. I was reminded of all of that last week, and went out and bought 3 of his cds.

That sounds exactly like Josh.   Interestingly, when I heard him in Boston a week before his subway performance, he was part of a double bill.  The first was The Planets, by an orchestra.

Can I come to your wedding? Please?

If you both email me at gene(dot)weingarten(at), I'll put you in touch

You mentioned it, but WHY do stadiums close up concessions so early?? That made Saturday's game soooooo much more painful for everyone. But it's every game -- concessions start to close around the 8th inning. I get cutting off beer sales, but why concessions? Maybe you don't want to pay people an extra hour but ... I've had many games where I would have purchased a dog and a soda after the game, to no avail. Aren't they leaving money on the table?

I get it only as it applies to beer -- and even that is pretty patronizing.  Do they really think that their customers are so out of control?

Woman. In a shower stall. On a stool. Doesn't want to hurry. REMOVEABLE SHOWER HEAD. CLEANING THE UNDERCARRIAGE. Dood. Do you get it yet?


Did Mr Bell deliberately schedule his concert for chat day to see what you'd do?

Ha.  No.   That was the only day he had free.  Same as the original stunt.   The man is seriously booked.

Did you read the column Boswell wrote just after the 18-inning game? Don't you wish you could write like that?

Boswell perpetually amazes me.  

Your response caused me to feel road rage. I would be the person passing you on the right side since you would be hogging the left lane. I am very conscientious of moving to the right after I pass cars and there is a gap on the right. This allows any faster vehicles to more safely pass me on my left.

But what if there are no faster vehicles?  I stay in the left until challenged from behind.

Think back to when you were 14 or 15. What might you be doing in a bathroom that you'd jump if your mom knocked? That's what this woman is doing in a shower stall with the removeable shower head on her undercarriage.


I'm just a little over 40 and a single female. Within the past seven or so years of dating (and mostly with those I met online), there have been numerous requests for me to send pics of me without clothes. Once, I took a somewhat-naked-risque-no-face pic for a guy I liked and sent it. I never did again but have no idea where that pic may be. However, I have received many, many, many unsolicited pics of naked men - from men I was dating to men I have never met. At this point, it's so boring to get one of these. (Also, the best part of your poll is that it asks you, after you've voted, if you'd like to share your vote with friends!)


Does it involve driving? Did you tell the person who guessed?

No.  And I did not tell the person who guessed.

Did you see this idiocy? The Jacksonville Jaguars mascot held up a sign saying "Towels Carry Ebola" during their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers -- whose fans wave "Terrible Towels" of course. Now the team is apologizing left and right, and who knows if the mascot will remain employed. I know, comedy equals tragedy plus time, but ... is this really worth such a big stink?

Well, Africans are dying in droves.   I think this was a pretty serious mistake, but an understandable one.  You get caught up in what seems, for the moment, to be clever.  They were making fun of the "terrible towel."

Why were the Post's comics on Tuesday, sept. 30, the same as the comics on Monday, Sept. 29 in our home delivered papers. From Faye Johnson in Silver Ring, Md

Because the paper screwed up on Monday by printing Tuesday's paper.   As to why they didn't just flip the two days , I'm not sure, but will ask. 

Okay, I asked.  Long story short: Original mistake was made because comics editor was on vacation and chaos prevailed.  Compounding mistake was made on what I believe to be a bad call:  Someone decided that flipping the two days would be "compounding the error."  Wrong. 

Greeting Gene! We happily pay to subscribe and receive home delivery. Since we generally only read the dead trees version of the Post while we're eating breakfast, the MAIN benefit from home delivery (that you definitely can't get online) is that you get a free tool with which to harvest dog poo. This is why I'm writing to you. Have you noticed a change in the plastic delivery bags in recent weeks? I'm sure the narrower, less durable are better for the environment but they are not NEARLY as good for dog poo. They are too narrow to easily complete the reverse and knot procedure once the harvest is complete and although not as perilously thin as the blue NYT bags, the more delicate bags definitely raise the danger level. What is a home subscriber to do? (We would HAPPILY pay if WaPo were only available online but still like the dead trees version with our cereal and have come to rely on the bags.)

I have noticed this and it does bother me.  The bags tend to develop holes more easily, and they are small, stealth holes you might not notice until you notice it for a very, very bad reason.   I am on it.

(I am really on it.  If this is permanent, I am going to try to persuade the Post to go back to an upgraded version.  I believe we will lose subscribers.)

The poster who has always hated those happy women doing housework will probably enjoy this.

This is beautiful.

There's a super-cute guy at work who I am completely incapable of talking to. He's totally nice and friendly and says hi and...I can barely look at him. What makes it worse is I am super chatty and friendly with EVERYONE ELSE in the company. The only thing I've ever been able to do to get me over my shyness in these situations is to be very direct and just tell a guy he's hot, but this would not be a good idea in a work environment. Any ideas for getting over this hump? Every time it happens it just makes it worse!

Any women want to help this woman?

With a topic line like this, you might think I want to comment on all the recent controversy in the NFL. No. Since the NFL is all about the money, I have an idea for them to rake in even more cash. The idea came about last year at the Jewish High Holy Days. My SIL goes to the same temple as Arthur Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons. Here is a synopsis of our conversation: Her: Saw Arthur Blank at the temple today. He had a blue yarmulke on. Me: Really? That doesn't seem right. It should have been red or black or red & black. Her: Exactly. I think he should have had a Falcons logo on it, too. Me: Yeah, for sure! The NFL should sell yarmulkes with all the team logos Her: And tallits, too! (prayer shawls for those not familiar with the term). Me: Wow! That's great! Can you imagine the business they could do for bar mitzvahs? All those kids running around with their favorite Jewish paraphenalia with their team's logo? Her: We should pitch it to the NFL and get a cut of the profits. We can call it NFL Jew Gear! So, Gene, is this a moneymaker or is this just wrong?

Well it makes me think of this great Jimmy Kimmel bit.

Months ago I asked for advice about what to say to Joshua Bell when he played here in Charlotte, since the venue was the college where my husband chaired the music department and we would be helping him out while he signed CDs afterward. You advised that the one topic to be avoided was his concert in the DC subway. I'm happy to report I didn't need to search far for a different topic. Since we were setting up, he signed my CD first, and I asked him to make it out "to all the old dogs." He gave me a look and I explained it was a Gene Weingarten reference, and that the pieces on that CD reminded me of my old boys, now long gone. He could not have been nicer. I'll also note that it is very jarring to enter a concert hall during rehearsal. The musicians of St. Martin's in the Field looked like...well, like what one would expect of classically trained musicians. Standing in the midst of them, dressed in jeans and a tee shirt, was what appeared to be an (admittedly cool and handsome) middle school science teacher or neighborhood soccer coach who must have won some charity auction that allowed him to rehearse with a world-class orchestra. Until, of course, he moved. And the sound of that violin reached me. Even now, remembering the effect, I catch my breath.

For the people who tell me that they're pretty sure they would have walked right past Josh that day, I say: You had to be there to know for sure.

The sound was so lush, he sounded like no other street performer you'll ever encounter.  Some of it was that fiddle.  Some was the strangely wonderful acoustics of that little arcade.  But most of it was Josh.  

I'm a woman and our home showers all have removable shower heads. It really doesn't take any longer to clean the undercarriage than it does to clean one's feet.

I think there's a lot of defensiveness in that second post.

I've recently admitted to myself that, despite being about as liberal as they come, I think abortion (of a healthy fetus by an adult woman following consensual sex) is wrong. But I don't think it should be illegal, for a few reasons: I come from a fairly privileged background (though I am a woman), and I know that I can't fully comprehend what it's like to be in the kinds of situations that lead to abortions; I think our country's policies often leave women lvery few choices; when it comes down to it, the rights of a 100% person trump those of a 99.9% person; etc. So what I'm asking you, oh liberal master of logic, is: is this logical, or am I heading down a path that ends with me protesting outside an aborion clinic? And, more importantly, can I keep my liberal cred?

You remain a liberal in good standing.   To be a card-carrying liberal, you need only recognize the inherent legal rightness of choice. In a way, you are a STRONGER liberal on this issue than I am, because it is easy for me to be pro-choice; I don't think early abortion -- even casual, early elective abortion -- is inherently bad.   You are a purer lib than I am on this.

An analogy would be a vegetarian who likes the taste of meat, but doesn't eat meat. 


Here's a math question for you -- on a 500 mile trip, how much does changing lanes every, say, 5 miles add to your trip? That's 100 lane changes. How long do you think it takes you to change lanes? 500 feet? Using the Pythagorean Theorem, you just added 14 miles to your trip!

I'll accept this as right because it fuels my outrage.

How unfair is it that he is also so good-looking? Although I suppose that is true of Anne-Sophie Mutter as well.

He and Joel Achenbach and Ken Burns all look alike.

On airplane etiquette, your position is that no one should recline their seats because that would be bad manners and we all want to live in a world of sweetness and cooperation. On road etiquette, you are going to stay in the left lane as long as you darn well please, because hey, I paid for this road (this is the same principle you espouse in waiting as long as possible to merge into traffic so you can chuckle at all the saps who were thoughtful enough to merge earlier). I wasn't aware the moral rules of traveling were so dependent on the mode of transportation.

You are distorting my answer.  I would stay in the left until someone came up behind me, clearly wishing to drive faster.  Then I move right.  Then back left. I drive fast.

I have a friend from college. We don't see each other often, but when we do we pick right back up like the intervening year or two was nothing at all. Four years ago he had a son and asked me to be the kid's godfather. My friend is now in seminary. Would it be a jerk move to buy my godson a copy of "Me & Dog" for Christmas? Chances are he'll be reading this if you post it -- hi, Dave!

Yes, it would be wrong to buy him a copy.  Every home needs TWO copies.

Unfortunately for the would-be entrepreneur, there are already numerous places you can go for custom-made sports kippahs. I wore a Boston Bruins kippah at my wedding, and the groomsmen all had one of the team of their choice.

Goyim:  kippa = yarmulke.

I thought it was VERY rude of the chatster above to gush to you about your consoling words about her sexual inexperience at the time, and then about meeting Mr. Wonderful, and then getting married and taking nude photos, and then not sharing the photos with us.


I really wish someone would answer this articulately, but I think there is no articulate answer. I don't claim to speak for all women, but I can tell you that a photo of a man's junk does NOTHING for me. It's just sad. It's like a little boy wanting you to admire his favorite toy. Sending photos of your penis makes you seem needy and pathetic, gentlemen, and believe it or not, that's not a turn-on. Just stop it.

Repeat: I have zero idea why any man would think this would have anything but a negative effect on a woman.

I have no nude photos of my wife. Sadly, I have seen some for sale.

You are kidding, yes?  If not, elaborate.

I confess that my overwhelming response to the poll results is relief that both the over-40 men and over-40 women say 30%, and both under-40s genders also say 55%. I would have been very upset if there were a gender split.

I expected a gender split.

... I will quote you forever for saying above, "Garfield is good."


I was tying on my computer when the person on an airplane reclined his seat. This gave me little room to type. The reclining person asked if i would stop typing as it was bothering him.


This weekend my partner and I attended an event at a small, private university in a small town in the mid-west, and at the beginning of the event everyone was told to rise for the Pledge of Allegiance. It's been a long while since I experienced that. Ever since the discussion of the pledge took place in this forum, I've been contemplating both the absurdity of the pledge and the rote way we mumble through it without thinking about it means, but I wasn't particularly anti-pledge. So, though I stood, I did not earnestly clap my hand over my heart or loudly and passionately say the words, as those around me did. My partner's Mom, standing next to me, noted my non-participation by standing up straighter and pledging more loudly in my direction, as if to goad me into participating. I found myself getting irritated at these folks who were robotically describing the nation as having "liberty and justice for all" when my partner and I can not get married in that state and when we could be denied housing in that state due to our sexual orientation. A group of pleasantly convivial folks became a brain-washed, zombie contingent who responded as a herd to the command to "stand and pledge." The "false patriotism" really irritated me. So, I am no longer ambivalent the pledge. I am now anti-pledge. So...thanks??????

Great anecdote.    You could turn this into an op ed piece for the Post.    Contact Carlos(dot)Lozada(at)

Hi Gene, I live on the Hill and saw you picking up pizza from 7th Hill a week or so ago (how much do you love that place?!). Started to say hi, then didn't. I said to my boyfriend, "that's Gene Weingarten, the humor columnist for the Post." His response was, "well, I think 'humor' is a bit of a stretch." So I'm single now.

Good.  That guy was poison.

Speaking of poison:  I am not a fan of 7th Hill !  I got talked into it by my kids.  I think their pizza is dry.  I am willing to entertain opposing viewpoints.

As the media guru of all things lascivious, I can think of no one else to whom I can address this question: Why is the nipple considered obscene while the rest of the breast can be amply exposed with no (or almost no) push-back from the prude police?

1. Because the nipple is the love button.  The area of max sensation, so it screams PLEASURE at prudes.

2. Because the nipple is a defined, recognizable target of prudery.  It is a toggle.  Either it is exposed or it is not.  The breast itself is too amorphous; it gives the morally outraged no clear definition for their outrage.  How much is too much?   Is sideboob okay?   

A squared plus B squared equals C squared. Interstate lanes are 12 feet wide, so If you change lanes in 500 feet, the two legs (A and B) of the triangle are 500 and 12 feet. So A squared plus B squared is 250,000 plus 144, which is 250,144. The square root of that is 500.144, so you traveled 500.144 feet instead of 500 feet. With 100 lane changes, you'll travel 14.4 extra FEET, not miles.

Hahahahaha.  Is that true?  I need a third mathematician.

If the dog died and went to Heaven.

Totally true.

Hi Gene, In your last full chat you linked to a 2007 chat in which you posted accurate mathematical proof that magical explanations continue to be superseded by scientific fact over time. In the same chat, you introduced (I think for the first time?) the concept of googlenopes. Almost 8 years later, I thought I'd try out the then-googlenopes that your chatters submitted. "Convicted rabbinical authority" now appears in two google results that both refer to that 2007 chat. "Poop water that comes out of your butt" still only has one hit which is also for the 2007 chat. By way of comparison, "dude, forsooth" however, comes back with 53 results now. "Fine outhouse dining" comes back with three links that all refer to the chat. Finally, in this same chat, you talk about the proper use of quotes in journalism, how it is important to retain the truth and readability of the quotes rather than quote everything absolutely verbatim with all the "uhs" and [sics] necessary. I was wondering first, if you still adhere to this belief. I do, but when I was a reporter for my college's paper I also felt guilty for not quoting absolutely completely verbatim because I knew many readers out there would read it thinking it WAS. Did you ever worry about that? Happy boots and skirts season.

All very interesting.  

I absolutely feel the same thing about quotes, maybe even more strongly.   There is nothing magic about a verbatim quote.  It is possible to quote someone completely accurately and still have that quote used to further a storytelling lie.  (Have him answering a slightly different question than was really put to him.)  It is possible -- even likely -- that by insisting on quotes being exactly, precisely, and contextually accurate, you will wind up emphasizing something unfairly (say, an ungrammatical expression, where the person's grammar is not an issue in what you are writing.)  It is certain that by insisting on quotes being exactly, precisely, and contextually accurate, you will create sentences far more confusing and less read-able than they should be.

Listen, there is truth, and there is lying.  A good writer knows the difference between the two.  You can quote somebody accurately without recording every burp, half-thought, extraneous aside, etc.  

 I have applied my quote standards for 40 years, and only once, to my memory, has someone complained that I got it wrong.  (It was relatively recently, and he had at least a minor point, and I corrected the record in a chat.)

I thought it was fairly obvious: those same guys would find the reverse situation (being on the receiving end of a naked woman's picture) hot. They like it, so everyone must.

Well, these would be men who assume women are exactly like men.   Such men would be men to avoid.  

Just want to share that I am having a bad time...long-term relationship on the rocks, partner away with work for three weeks, leaving me alone in my misery, and it's raining and I can't get motivated to leave the house...but the chat is like visiting with comfortable old friends and it is helping me a lot today. Thanks.

Glad to be of service.

After the Weiner debacle (which is fun to write), Jezebel posted a great guide about when to send pics of your junk to women. All men should read it.  

I remember this.  Excellent.  I like Jezebel.

The nude wife photos for sale was a joke. Yet it was based on a real life incident. I was introduced to a woman and we began dating and then I saw her movies on sale in the window of an X rated store. Which was definitely surprising as she was very shy and reserved in real life. If we had married, I could use the joke honestly.

Okay, good.   Whew.

But you don't want those people buying your book.

Boy, you don't understand book publishing at all, do you?  I'm fine with serial killer cannibals buying my book.

If she was doing what I think she was doing with that hand-held shower head ("cleaning the undercarriage" indeed), then NO. Cleanliness, and even leg shaving, I'll give you. But you can "feel better about yourself" in a space in less demand. Please hurry up and get clean and get out.

WHY DO SO MANY PEOPLE ASSUME SHE WAS SELF-PLEASURING?   I don't have that takeaway at all.

When did this become a second national anthem. I don't stand and I don't take off my hat. No one has commented on this as of yet. I usually look like I'm paying attention to my phone.

Some idiot woman behind us loudly ordered Molly to take off her Nats head covering when the song was playing.  We were standing silently.  I briefly considered turning around and loudly telling her that my daughter had paid a supreme sacrifice for her country and had a plate in her head and was missing several internal organs and how dare she question her patriotism.   But I didn;t.

I'm no expert, but... when my wife was pregnant with our kids sh was a bit older 38 & 40 respectively. The risk for amnio was quoted as around 1 in 500. With the risk of the conditions we were worried about being much greater (Down's was something like 1 in 200). With those odds, and our analytical minds you go with the amnio every time. I won't argue that other people's right answer can't be different from ours, but when people claim the risk of amnio is the same as the targeted conditions they're simply misinformed.

And again: Even that stated risk is inflated.

I was not at the stadium Saturday night -- I was home, and warm, and watching on TV. But I watched the whole damn six hours and twenty-three minutes, and by the end I was completely drained, and more than a little worried. Like all fans, I know that MY personal actions during a game affect its outcome. It seemed obvious to me, as Saturday oozed painfully into Sunday, that this was somehow my fault. So last night, when the Nats dragged themselves to San Francisco for the game that seemed sure to end it all, I did not watch. You're welcome, fellow Nats fans.

Thank you.

At the age of 10, in 1962, I listened in its entirety to the 22-inning game played between the Yankees and the Tigers.  It started at 2 pm on Sunday afternoon and ended 9:35 p.m.  It was won on a home run by Jack Reed, the backup for Joe Pepitone, who was taken out in the 18th inning, and who was the backup for Mickey Mantle, who was taken out in the 10th inning.  It was the only home run Jack Reed ever hit.  At one point in a late inning, the leadoff Tiger hit a triple.   Yankees manager Ralph Houk ordered the next two batters walked, to set up a force at any base, and perhaps for the first and last time in baseball history, this idiot strategy worked.

I admit that I left before the end of the game. I was there with my 72 year old father, and after 5 hours and 13 innings, we decided to leave. Like you said, the joy was gone, and it was obvious that the mistake of pulling Zimmermann had jinxed the rest of the game and we would lose. We just couldn't stand to freeze our butts off while knowing what the end result would be.

I do not disrespect that decision, but only because of your dad.

About 1982 (I was 30) the church I went to at the time [no longer believe] decided to put together a yearbook of sorts of members. I decided to go. The photographer was a young guy, well my age, and since I was one of the last to get photographed we started talking. I had recently seen a photo spread of Natalie Wood in a magazine and one of the photos was of her nude sitting with her knees up covering her breasts and her ankles crossed covering her you know what. It was very sexy but showed no private parts. So the photographer and I went back to my apartment and he photographed me in that pose. I have it hanging in my condo now and I have even placed it on my Facebook page. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. And damn, I wish I still looked the way I looked then.

Well, under the rules of this poll, those are not nude pictures. 

Were you aware that Emily Dickinson wrote almost all of her poems in ballad meter? What this means is that you can sing almost all of her poems to any ballad that was ever written including Amazing Grace, the Yellow Rose of Texas, and my personal favorite the Ballad of Gilligan's Island.

Well, whaddaya know?  Yes.   This is the Yellow Rose of Texas:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.

Bell appeared on the PBS NewsHour the day of last week's concert. I think he made a lot of the same comments that you did about what the Union Station appearance meant to him. Did you see that?

I did not, and good for him.  He has not usually been that forthcoming about it. 

If you got a tiny wagon, only big enough to hold a baseball securely, and rounded up 4 lively, bronco snails and hitched them up, this snail-train could have crawled to first base sooner than Gene’s throw. Ooooh, how about this one? Henry Kissinger was given a ball at third base, and heaved it with an Aryan curse. It skittered toward left field, and rested on the grass. It beat Gene’s throw to first. Wait wait, one more. A dead hobo is put on third base, and a baseball is squeezed into his stiff hand. He doesn’t throw it, because he can’t, but it still beats Gene’s throw to first. Come on, let’s have a contest, with one of your books going to the winner!!! Good stuff, good stuff…

Consider the contest inaugurated.

The aptonym is strong with this one. Almost too obvious to send to you, but then I noticed where the accused is from and where he was arrested (both the town and business name). Have you ever come across a quadruple aptonym? Oh yeah, and the photo is the icing on the cake! 

Correct.  It reads like a joke, but doesn't appear to be.  Also, it is curious that the story doesn't mention that Mr. Wank, arrested on public lewdness in Kirkwood at Love's Travel Stop, appears also to be wearing a great deal of makeup.

Oh, honey. You're such a prude and it's so cute. People have been taking nude pics, and painting nude portraits! - for thousands of years. Just because you haven't done it and no one has told you about this very private thing doesn't mean there aren't tons of people doing it. It's not new, it's more common than you apparently think...perhaps this is worth a poll?

And you got your wish, and apparently you are right.  You are cute, too.

Gene: What are your thoughts on people who always have to back in to their parking spots? It often can be very disruptive in a crowded parking lot. Is it worth it for the ease of pulling out easier on exiting?

No.   This is a classic case of rudeness.  They are inconveniencing you now for their own convenience later. 

I am a male over 40 and I have never taken a photograph of myself or anyone naked. Of course, someday, if I finally do get to ever see someone naked, I will let you know if we decide upon taking photographs.

Thanks.  Keep us posted.

I grew up in a generation filled with pornography online. If I date someone my age, I know he most likely consumes porn. If he doesn't, he either won't have the sex drive I need, is religious (I'm atheist), or thought that masturbation would cause blindness or something. So I know I'll probably marry and date men who porn. I want to be porn that that man sees. At least some of his porn. I read in your chat ages ago “The desire of the man is for the woman, but the desire of the woman is for the desire of the man.” I want my man to desire me. Imagining him viewing these pictures fills me with sweet desire. I accept the consequences of my actions. Someday, naked pictures of me might be leaked, or revenge porn may happen. I'm okay with this. There are risks with sex, and after carefully considering the options, I'm going to be in naked digital pictures. I try not to trust a man with my body unless I feel I can trust him with pictures of my body.

Nicely put.   But you are really not "okay" with revenge porn.  I have said this before, but intimacy requires trust, and that trust must be forever, even after the dissolution of a relationship.    Divorces that turn mutually vile fill me with disrespect  for both people.  

During about the 15th inning, I noticed that most of the people in the lower sections were standing, while the Nats (N-A-T-S NATSNATSNATS WOO!) were busy doing nothing of interest. I was grateful, sitting in the 2nd deck with my chilly but resolute 7-year-old daughter on my lap, that the folks in my section were mostly seated. Proposition: standing at a sporting event without cause is worse than reclining your seat in an airplane. Your take? I suggest that if you're not actively cheering, whether in response or in anticipation, you should have your butt in your seat (unless of course you can't see because somebody down the line in front of you has caused everybody to have to stand).

I generally agree with you.   But the seats were too cold on Saturday.  We stood.  (We were also in the last row on ground level, left field, so there was no one's view to occlude.)

If I thought I had a great body I wouldn't have picked "extremely humiliated" because I'm good at hiding my figure flaws with my clothing. Naked pictures would expose the reality. BTW I'm over 40 but I've felt that way about my body since I was 14. Luckily my husband doesn't agree with me. He thinks I'm hot.

He's right.

Have you noticed that people say "the road to Hell is paved with good intentions?" instead of "the roads in Hell are paved with good intentions"? One states that good intentions alone won't keep you out of Hell. The other states that good intentions will send you to Hell.

I hadn't noticed this.  But you are right.

Did you get only one chance to make the throw? We're you allowed to practice, or would that have not mattered?

This is in reference to my column this weekend, in which I bared my humiliation in not being able to throw a runner out from third.   The video is devastating.

Well, the deal was I didn't get to practice that day, on that field, and we could do it only once: I wasn't willing to ask a professional athlete  to risk a muscle strain more than once, particularly on the eve of his team's World Series.    I did make one throw in practice, in a park near my house, after measuring the distance.   I threw it to Molly, and the throw had a high arc, was on line, arrived on two bounces, and I am pretty sure would have caught a baserunner, even a fast one.

Why did I not practice more?  It is sad to admit, but I was worried I'd injure my arm and be unable to try it for real. 

So what happened at the ballpark?  I choked.  I actually got distracted watching Stephen Perez run.  By the time I recovered my concentration, it was all over.  The "throw" resembled a shot put attempt.

As of yesterday, my 6+ year legal marriage is finally valid in Virginia. That is all.

So, you were married in another state but living in sin in Virginia?

Mazel tov.  Welcome to the world of the governmentally morally endorsed.

There have been a lot of stories/analysis about the Supreme Court's decision to not hear the appeals of the decisions regarding same sex marriage. My question is . . . why does the government create incentives (tax breaks, automatic legal protections, etc.) for marriage at all anymore? After all, there are no waiting periods or requirements that the couple be prepared for what marriage will entail, there is no requirement for a lasting commitment (most states have a no-fault divorce provisions), and there is no requirement (or even expectation) that a marriage is intended to become a family unit with children (who might need automatic legal protections). Those are all things that the government used to point to as a reason for encouraging people to become married. I certainly understand the benefit (especially non-financial benefits) to those involved to have the government recognize a marriage, but why have special financial and legal privileges for those who are married? I’m waiting for a non-married couple to challenge a government program or benefit (or a denial of some tax benefit) because they are not married. I don't know how the government could respond to that effectively. After all, why is it okay to discriminate against adults who decide to be in a relationship but not get married when it’s not okay to discriminate amongst those who decide to get married?

I agree completely, though this all changes when there are children.  The kids need to be protected in the event of a divorce.

Gene, the sensible approach to scandalous photographs of oneself is to make sure the exciting bits are visible but the face is coyly hidden. My boyfriend's never yet been puzzled about the identity of the lady in the picture, and if his phone gets lost or his email hacked, little risk to me.

Well, good, but I would argue that if his phone is ever compromised by someone who knows him well, the identity of the naked lady will be manifest.  But still, no humiliation: LOOK at you.

One thing airlines do right is having their bathroom door locks connected to occupied/vacant signs. On a recent trip out west, I noticed that some highway gas stations and fast food restaurants have adopted this technology. Seems like such an simple and useful feature, now I wonder why it's not everywhere.

Good point!

I put humiliated, but not because of my nakedness so much as my failure to prevent the release of the photos. I'd feel stupid and technologically inadequate. I'm nowhere near my peek physical fitness, but I don't feel ashamed to be naked in front of those who voluntarily permit or invite it. Not preventing exposure to those who have shared with me no such permission or invitation, however, would be a shortcoming for which I'd find it difficult to forgive myself.

I like "peek."

Gene, Spotted you and the rib on the concourse before the Nats game on Saturday (she, looking good in a ski cap, you like an unmade bed as expected). Did you stick out all 18 innings? And does your atheism comfort you in the face of an unjust (baseball) God? I'm exercising faith today but by Tuesday's chat all may be moot. BTW, I don't observe religion but believe fervently in baseball gods, BABIP gods, and the importance of what I wear to affect the outcome of games.



I've participated in a naked picture only once, and as the photographer. My husband was getting ready for bed wearing really, really old, threadbare undies. When he bent over to get something, still chatting with me, his business was ALLLLL hanging out. It was one of the funniest sights I've seen, and I managed to snap a picture between fits of giggles. I texted the picture to a good (female) friend of ours, with husband's permission, and then I deleted it. If the picture got stolen and widely published, with his name on it, he would be embarrassed for a day and find it funny thereafter. I'm quite sure of this, or I would not have taken it in the first place. (ps, friend's response to the text: "GAHAHAHAHA! When are you gonna buy him new underwear, wife??")

Uh.   So you deleted it after TEXTING it to someone else?   This makes sense to you? 

I'm stunned that your husband had no problem with your sharing it with a "good friend."

I'm a 41-year-old man, so right about at your age line. Over the past five years, I've dated women from 19 to 50. A very large majority of ALL of them have sent me naked or partially naked photos, or allowed me to take some of them. The only difference I've noted is that the older the woman, the more likely she is to have the "just don't show my face" restriction in taking photos. Younger women, however, don't seem to care. They'll take a full-body nude in front of a mirror, smiling big, and send it off.


Hi Gene - I have a question about how/why design and layout decisions for the print edition are made. There have been some recent examples that strike me as a waste of space. For instance, the profile of country singer Brad Paisley in which a photo took up 3/4's of the Style front page. The review of Henry Kissinger's latest book in which a photo took up 3/4's of the Outlook front page. The review of the PBS series 'The Roosevelts' in which a friggin' headline took up 3/4's of the Arts front page. This kind of thing strikes me as awfully wasteful when all of that space could be used for, you know, actual printed content. Print edition readers are already getting screwed with a smaller paper and such decisions just rub it in. I'm well aware of the challenges facing newspapers and I'm well aware that it's only a matter of time until Bezos kills the print edition altogether. But until that rueful day comes, at least throw us print readers (and I'm a home delivery subscriber for over 35 years) a bone. Your thoughts, please.

Well, I half agree with you, but design is important; it doesn't have to compete with journalism -- it can add to journalism.  There are times when a huge picture is riveting on its own.

The woman who requested Molly remove her hat was wrong. Men's hats are removed to show respect. Women's hats are not.

I know, though I don't understand why.  

While Shansby may have illustrated the first anatomically correct dog from behind for your new book Me & Dog, I don't know if you've ever seen the back cover of the childrens' book "Little Blue Truck". Sadly, I couldn't find the image online, but it's the opposite view of the front cover -- so a pickup truck driving away with a bed full of animals, including the anatomically correct backside of a sheep. It ain't subtle.

In searching (unsuccessfully) for the back cover, I found this strange book.  What do we suppose it is about?


I'm with the you and the OP -- there's no need to take off a hat for God Bless America. I stand simply because the PA guy says "Please rise for the singing of GBA" so I think it might be rude not to. But hat stays on. I take my hat off for the national anthem, but I don't do hand-over-heart, which seems to be getting more and more prevelant. Have you been to an international soccer game, US versus anybody? The fans there SING OUT the national anthem. Goosebumps. Why isn't that done all the time?

Because it is nationalistic claptrap?  Well, maybe not, if it is a trans-national game.

I'm actually not sure that you and the poster were as far apart in your thinking as you made it out to be--his or her biggest gripe seemed to be with slower drivers camping in the left lane. A bigger issue that I have is with folks who seem to think that passing on the right (on a multi-lane freeway) is some grave crime against humanity. If someone wants to go slowly in the middle lanes, and the right lane is open, then taking advantage of that space improves traffic flow for everyone. The Germans seem especially nether parts-retentive about this--I once got passed by a Mercedes on the autobahn that approached in the right lane, swung all the way over to the left lane (I was in the middle of three lanes), then swung immediately back to the right lane as he cut in front of me while doing 100 mph. Not exactly a safe maneuver, and totally unnecessary.

Agreed!  I am not sure what is wrong with passing on either side.   The key is safety.  Don't be a jackass.

Good lord, Gene, of COURSE you couldn't throw him out -- throwing is half your lower body, and your knees are dead.

I think I would have thrown him out had I not choked.  By a hair.   I had a huge advantage, being able to release as soon as he started for first.

Your colleague, the great Judith Martin, could probably explain it to you, as she knows everything.

No doubt.

I'm a big fan of both shows, and when I saw they were going to do this I cringed. Then I watched it, and cringed more. Why did they have to do this? They might as well had Homer and Peter holding hands as they waterskied over a shark.


Inconvenience? No. I'm either going to back (slowly) INTO the spot, or I'm going to have to back (slowly) OUT OF the spot. The reason to back into a spot and face outward is so that you can see what's coming at you (other cars, pedestrians, strollers) better as you exit the space. It's a safer way to park.

Okay, but when you are backing out of a spot, you are much more tentative, and are completely at the mercy of traffic.  It's an inconvenience to you, but usually not to traffic.  Not at all so when you stop to back into a space.

I have a similar situation - person in my office I can't talk to one-on-one despite being friendly with everyone else. The only problem is that this young lady is my DOPPELGANGER, to the extent that I nearly started shaking when I saw her making coffee in the break room on her first week. I thought I was exaggerating the resemblance in my head until people started making joking references to "your sister." We both walk around wearing clothes that indicate affiliation with the same alternative-culture scene, we both have similar senses of humor, and in fact manage to commandeer group meetings with back-and-forth banter. But we can't make eye contact in the halls. It's so, so weird.

Okay.  That is weird, and interesting.

I believe that there have been studies that show that parking tail-in, rather than nose-in, significantly reduces accidents. So it's not about convenience but about safety.

I demand those figures.  

You are "supposed" to remove your hat during the national anthem only. The Nats used to request that fans stand and remove their caps for "God Bless America." They have recently ceased making this request. When a few people have told me to remove my hat during God Bless America, I respond by questioning their patriotism by suggesting that they are failing to show proper respect to the national anthem by removing their hat during another song.


Okay, we're done for the day.  Thank you all.  A good chat.  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.

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