Chatological Humor: Monthly with Moron (May)

May 26, 2015

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.

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

New to Chatological Humor? Read the FAQ.

Today is a strange, hybrid chat.  For one thing, there is a co-host, my editor, Tom The Butcher.  Say hello to the nice people, Tom.


Typical.  Tom never does what I ask.   Anyway, he is here and will be answering questions, or commenting on my answers, or whatnot.   That is because Sunday is the eighth annual Washington Post Hunt, which Tom runs along with me and Dave Barry.   It starts at noon sharp at Freedom Plaza.

Will Dave be here for the chat?  He says he might snipe.  So be ready.  Whatever he says about me is a lie.  Tom, he's right about.

This Hunt has some new wrinkles this year, none of which I will disclose to you here, except to say that we are atypically uncertain about the Degree of Difficulty involved in the Five Big Puzzles.  We think it might be among the easier Hunts, or it might be the most difficult, depending on which Aha! buttons are triggered in which brains.   

Another notable difference is that we have a new prize.   $500 goes to the team that solves all five puzzles most quickly.  As we point out in this year's Introduction (by federal law, all Hunt-related categories are capitalized, and fully protected from trademark infringement) this creates a conundrum for smart teams:  If you split up, you save valuable time, but you limit the advantage of on-the-spot groupthink.  Plan wisely, my friends.

We'll be taking questions on all subjects, of course, but we'll begin here with two brain teasers.  They are not Hunt-like challenges, exactly, but use similar parts of the brain.   These may be online somewhere, but you are all under the honor system.  No Googlings, and no posting your solutions if you already know the puzzles.

Puzzle One: A wealthy Bedouin instructs his two sons to each select his most worthy camel, for an important test.  Son Number 1 selects Abdul, his favorite, who he declares is the best camel in all of Arabia.  Son Number 2 laughs at this, and says his camel, Habib, is the finest in all the land.   The father then instructs his two sons to race their camels to Samarra, a faraway city, to see who will inherit his fortune. The one whose pet camel is slower, the old man cackles, is the winner.  

The boys set off, and, of course, are wandering aimlessly, dillydallying, and both camels, and their riders, are getting exasperated.  They feel like Noah, wandering the desert for 40 years, and this comparison makes them feel uneasy.  The sons realize they might die of old age on this trip and never inherit anything.  Finally, they find a wise man for help.  (It turns out he is Jewish, but that is not an important fact for this puzzle.)  The old man thinks for a moment, and then utters two words.   The sons look at each other, jump on the camels and roar off to Samarra as fast as they can. 

What are the two words that the wise man said?

Puzzle Two:  A violent tribe of savages -- coincidentally, this is the Roo-roo tribe -- captures three missionaries and tells them that to survive, they will have to pass a logic test. Fortunately, all three missionaries are brilliant  logicians. 

The chief shows them five headbands -- three white, two red  -- blindfolds them, and then places one headband on each of their heads, and hides the remaining two headbands.  Then he positions them, seated, on the ground, one behind each other.   

Once the blindfolds are removed, the man at the rear will be able to see the headbands on the two men in front of him.  The man in the middle will see only the one guy in front of him.  The man in the front will see no one.  

The head savage says this:  "Your goal is to figure out the color of your own headband.   As soon as you are sure you know what color is, blurt it out.  That is because we are very impatient.  If we feel enough time has passed without an answer, we are going to kill all three of you.  We're not telling you what that time limit is, but it is short.  So, work fast.  But make sure you are right!  If the first blurt is wrong, you all die by roo-roo.  No second guesses. 

The blindfolds were removed.   After 49 seconds, the man in the front -- the one who could see neither other guy -- correctly stated the color of his headband.   What was the color and how did he know?


We will discuss these in the chat. 

Meantime, please take the polls.   There is one very interesting result to discuss, as I see it.

We begin at noon sharp.   Be ready for Tom, because he'll be ready for you.  


Today's poll is a complex one, based on a long forgotten Lenny Bruce routine, and recent disgusting sociological discussions by me with friends and colleagues. It explores assumptions we make about the opposite sex. There's a male/female split, so click the version that applies to you.


I've been reading the wrong book!


I would like to say that was deliberate.

The "Do women talk?" question was easy for me. Within my wife's closest circle of friends there are very few secrets, and she's made that clear to me. Interestingly, she says that she has told her friends a lot more about my fantasies than her own (though, admittedly, hers would get her arrested if actually fulfilled, while mine are the more typically pedestrian male fantasies). It doesn't bother me. And no, my friends and I don't go into the sexual habits of our mates. We have more interesting things to talk about, like baseball.

To me, this was the most interesting part of the poll results.  Guys think women talk about everything.  EVERYTHING, names positions, preferences, failures.  EVERYTHING.  Whereas women actually are actually much more discreet.  (Still too sharing, IMO, but nowhere near what men think.)

Men are more discreet, and women SENSE that men a more discreet.   Nice going, men and women.

Personally, this whole thing bothers me.  I think it is a betrayal of trust.  I would expect my spouse or partner to say nothing.   Most guys don't seem to be that bothered by it, I am extrapolating, but maybe that's not right.

This whole poll came to being because I was talking to a woman about men who can't get sex, and she expressed the view that virtually ALL such men would go to a prostitute.  I disagreed.  I don't think most men would regard using a prostitute as "having sex," or a one-to-one substitute.  It's a whole different, and lesser, class of thing, and I think it is beneath most men.  I would have said under 5 %. 

This got me thinking of assumptions we make about the opposite gender which made me remember this great Lenny Bruce routine, about peeing in the sink.  Lenny suggested that all me, at various times, do it and that it is a grand secret, and only rises to a dysfunction or addiction  if men actually do it and then FLUSH, to hide the act.  


So, do men do it?  Evidently, enough so it is not a total aberration.  There are robust discussions about this online and women are, predictably and rightfully aghast.

WHY do men do it?  There is a reason.  It is not ennobling.  It's marginally easier.  If you are REALLY lazy and don't give a crap.  Which men are, and don't. 

Note: As you might expect, some online discussions involve the contention that all men SHOULD pee in the sink, to save water.

There won't be way too much walking required this year, will there? SINCE YOU PROMISED THERE WOULDN'T BE?

I am going to answer this cryptically, but accurately:

That is going to depend on you.

When you announced the new Early Solvers' prize (in the pre-Chat), you said "If you split up, you save valuable time, but you limit the advantage of on-the-spot groupthink." But is that really true? Team members who are somewhere else can view any puzzle site via Skype, and all team members can chime in with discussion. So is there still any advantage to on-the-spot groupthink?

There is.  It's subtle but there is.  You are also watching other people.  Hunt regulars will understand this.

Suppose our Post Hunt team has figured out the ultimate puzzle and we're racing for the finish line. Suddenly we see a street musician on the sidewalk, playing soul-wrenchingly beautiful music on his ancient violin. Should we stop and listen, thereby choosing art over crass commerce? Or should we run him over and head for the $2,000?

Steal the violin, keep running.  Win-win.

OR, you could quickly type out a few thousand words on the street musician and win the Post Hunt AND a Pulitzer. Easy.

Is there any part of this year's Post Hunt that you think might turn out to be disastrous?

Oh, yes.

Um, all of it? We pretty much worry to insanity over every tiny detail. 

Did you ever find that giant plastic butt from the 2013 Post Hunt, or is it lost forever?

GONE!   We would have given it to Annie Meuller, who, as Uranus,  modeled it so well, but it just ... disappeared.

Annie isn't the only one who looked fine in that butt!

Something tells me you've seen this, but in case not.

All interesting, but most things are intuitively true.  The biggest surprise for me -- and I question its accuracy -- is that 60 percent of all people (no gender breakdown available) open a stall door using toilet paper.   Who are these germophobes?  I don't think even Tom the Butcher is that much of a priss.

Gene's trying to goad me, but I won't fall for it. I don't use toilet paper to open public toilet stalls. I use telekinesis.

Why the hell do guys spit gum into the urinals? Or, to put it another way, with more capitalization, WHY THE HELL DO GUYS SPIT GUM INTO URINALS?? At least I assume guys are doing this. Unless women are sneaking into men's rooms and spitting gum into the urinals. Somebody (Joe Biden?) should look into this.

Gene, sorry to disappoint, but "Pharoah" has long been a common alternative spelling of "Pharaoh." A search on Early English Books Online, which indexes all books published in England between 1470 and 1700, returns 13,472 hits for "Pharaoh" and 1426 for "Pharoah."

So you would argue that "almanack" is fine, since Ben Franklin used to spell it like that?

(I am rooting against the otherwise excellent "Pharoah" horse  in the Belmont simply because of the affront to spelling that a win would bring.  Imagine the lists of Trip Crown winners, etched in stone, including this illiteracy.) 

FACT: Seabiscuit spelled his name "Seabisciut." Of course he was a horse, so we should cut him some slack. (I am assuming here that Seabiscuit was a male.) 

Dear Gene, The weather forecast for Sunday looks perfect...for the Amazon rainforest. What happens to the Hunt if there's a deluge?

We do not believe weather forecasts. 

Rain or shine, this sucker happens.   So.  

And we mean it: One year the National Park Service began to evacuate an area of the mall for fear of Finger of God tornadoes and grapefruit-sized hail (or somethng. I'm a little foggy on the details, but it was bad) and the Hunt went on triumphantly.

Even if the weather is terrible, the Hunt will go on! It will go on without Gene, Tom and me; we'll be in San Diego. But it WILL go on.

This is a joke, right? Because almost everyone I know says that, but it's actually gone. The past participle of go is gone, not went. I hear people using the past tense instead of the past participle all. the. time. "I should have ate..." "I should have went..." "I've drank so much...." Makes me shudder every time. The sad thing is, i used to teach this lesson to high school students in Japan, but I'm not sure why we bothered with those lessons now. If they came to America they could use whatever words they want. No one would know the difference.

The subject line is quoting me from last chat.  Uh, yes, that was a joke.   You think I could possibly have written that egregious line un-ironically?   Though I did once write about "participators" in an event.  It's still out there somewhere, waiting to be found and put in my obit. 

I remember that last year, before the 2014 Post Hunt, you thought that one of the puzzles might be insurmountably difficult (I don't know which one). Will you give out extra clues if we can't solve one this year?

Yes, in fact, checking the Twitter @Posthunt account regularly will be important.  There may well be hints, or clarifications.

Are the Post Hunt puzzles still constructed in an atmosphere of supportive, synergistic teamwork?

If you count as supportive spending more creative energy figuring out ways to humiliate each other than on the actual puzzles, then yes.

Do you guys all know that Tom has very little hair? 

When I was in college, my freshman year roommate would pee in the sink during the night so he didn't need to walk to the bathroom. I found it disgusting and said so, but it's not like I could physically restrain him from peeing in the sink. One weekend his friend came to visit, and he told him to just pee in the sink in the middle of the night the first night he was there. The next night they both got drunk and his friend got sick, throwing up on his pillowcase and his shirt. My roommate put them in soapy water in the sink to soak. Later on, though, his friend got up and remembered the previous night -- and went to pee in the sink. All over my friend's brand-new pillowcase and his own brand-new shirt. Justice!!

God, I miss college.

How many beers were harmed in the making of Post Hunt 2015?

Too numerous to count.  Also, several innocent vodkas met an untimely end. 

The beers weren't harmed! They were lovingly warmed to body temperature and set free in the wilds of the DC sewer system.

Those were consenting beers.

Would I have a better chance of finding Post Hunt clues if I flew my drone over the White House lawn on Sunday?

If you were thinking of doing that, you wouldn't even be able to answer the Opening Questions correctly. (Keep this in mind when the OQ pop up on line late this week. It's a hint!)

That would be illegal. There is, however, no law against using your drone to deliver a cash bribe, divisible by three, to the stage.

The first team to solve the five main puzzles gets $500? That's new. Why did you suddenly decide to do that? Was it something we said??

It was TtB's idea.   Just add some excitement.   We did take away the third prize, so it was mostly re-shuffling of resources.

Also, because now we CAN. Now that smartphones with internet connections are required equipment, the answers can be emailed in, with an automatic time stamp. This accomplishes a couple of nice things: It rewards people who work smart AND fast -- before, they had nothing to do but hang around until 3 waiting for the Final Clue. Secondly, it allows us to monitor, in real time, how well teams are doing with the Hunt Puzzles. And possibly -- though we sure hope this won't happen -- it will alert us if there's one that's throwing off a bad and unintended solution.

Also it affords us one more opportunity to totally screw something up.

Um, I have to admit I did pee in the sink once. But that's because the woman I was interested in was really into that. And she wanted to watch. And what followed was the best sex ever. But I broke up with her because that just wasn't my thing.

Wait.  She was into watching you pee INTO THE SINK?   Not just pee?

Okay, I declare that odd.  NOT BAD, mind you.  But odd.

 I can see peeing in Gene's sink. But not with Gene watching.

I recently returned from spending the last week with my daughter for her college semester abroad in southwestern France by the Pyrenees. We stayed with her host family and a former exchange student, now married with children, whom I hosted 20 years ago. Both families have two automobiles. Each had a high-end vehicle (Mercedes and BMW). All vehicles had manual transmissions. When I mentioned to each family that most Americans now drive cars with automatic transmissions and had cup holders built into the consoles, their responses were the same, "Why would anyone want to do that?" It is the same response as to why there is no coffee "to go" in France (after explaining what "to go" is for coffee). Even though the French seem to love their "smart" phones, they generally feel that having a cup of espresso is accompanied by sitting down and if you're with someone, having an actual conversation with that person and not spending the time texting someone else they apparently would rather be with. They also have tasty tomatoes with thin skins, which vary in size. Strawberries are of normal size (not mammoth and pithy), juicy, and taste, well, wonderful! Butter is unsalted, of course...and their ice cream...well, probably best I not dwell on that...pistachio ice cream with actual pistachio nuts! Since the USA is supposed to be the best in the world, why can't we have at least a real tomato? The overpriced USA "heirloom" tomatoes don't even come close to the run-of-the-mill grocery store tomato in France. What gives?

Don't get me started.  I mean, literally, don't get me started.  I have written about tomatoes almost as many times as I have written about stick shifts, and they are both, ultimately about how much we suck as a nation.  

Here, read this.


Wow, who knew I was such a delicate flower among women? I really do not pick my nose. Ever. With or without a tissue. I just don't have the need. What pisses me off is when my boyfriend claims his outrageous flatulence is an unavoidable "guy thing," when it's really all about his horrid diet.

I notice, madam, that you ENTIRELY IGNORE, as though it were not there, the shower-peeing question. 

"switch camels"

Correct, those were the two words.  The next poster elaborates.

Oop, ignore previous.  Obviously, there is no need to elaborate on why "switch camels" is right.  

My husband is fastidious to the point of dysfunction, so I am quite confident he has never peed in the sink. If he had, he'd never be able to use that sink again for its intended purpose. Not after multiple disinfecting activities. Not after the passage of years. In fact, we'd probably have to sell the house. I've never done it either, but that's because it's physically impossible without far more effort than would be required to find a more appropriate outlet. If I ever had, I'd never ever tell him, because we'd have to sell the house.

Lisa, is Tom aware you are writing into the chat? 

What do you think of the 6 and one-half year sentence -- much less that the maximum possible and even of the duration requested by the state? In view of recent additional revelations, which speak to his character, and the pain he has caused many in the community, I think it is fair.

Well, we did a poll on this, and the general bell curve of your answers peaked around 5-10 years.  I said I felt that was a little high, and I still do, but it's within the realm of reasonable.  Remember that because of the peculiarity of the charges, the "maximum" in this case was kind of absurd -- 50 years, which would be a death sentence to a 63-year-old man.

I'm not sure I know what you are referring to when you say "recent additional revelations."    The only one I remember, disclosed by the Wapo and potentially chilling, is that he rented an apartment in Jerusalem that was next door to a ritual bath.  Ew. 

Anyway, he needed not-paltry jail time, and he got it, so good. 

Today's poll reminded me of a poll I'd like to see. In his novel Rabbit at Rest, John Updike (apparently reflecting Rabbit's internal monologue), wrote, "That strange way women have, of really caring about somebody beyond themselves." Of course there are compassionate, caring men and cold, self-centered women, but this does, to some extent, reflect cultural stereotypes. Do people think that it is also, at some essential level, accurate?

I do.  In general.  I think in general women have more complicated interior landscapes.   Note Dave's terse response on the question near the top, about an overweight woman.  Right on target.

If the man in the back had seen red headbands on both the middle and front men, he would have known immediately that his was white. Since didn’t say anything, he had to have seen at least one white headband. By the back man’s silence, the middle man knew that between him and the man in front, there must be at least one white headband. If the man in front had had a red headband, then the man in the middle would have known that his own was white. However, he did not say anything, meaning that the man in front must have had a white headband. And so the man in front announced that he had a white headband.

Exactly right and tight, and expressed the best.   See next quesiton, about rhyme.

Just took female poll. Seems to be 3 responses total so far, including me. 100% pee in shower and pick nose. I did not pee in the shower until a few years ago, when someone told me everyone did. It is awfully convenient.

I cannot understand why anyone would NOT pee in the shower.  THE SINK IS VERY DIFFERENT ALTOGETHER.

I can see peeing in Gene's shower. But not my own.

Last year at least one person on each Post Hunt team had to belong to Twitter. Will we need to sign up for some other service this year, SnapChat, Instagram, etc?

No, Twitter will do it.  But Twitter is essential.

You also need some email account. 

Also you will need a seat on the New York Stock Exchange.

Alert, that great answer by Dave Barry about fatness?  That actually is not at the top of the chat.  It was done an hour ago, but it is .... here!

This happened to me recently - it was a nice day, maybe 70 degrees outside and I went to the store in a sweater. I was a little taken aback when the cashier looked at me and said "You can't possibly be cold." I said, "I'm not, I'm very comfortable." It's kind of a chilly store anyway, but the point is, it was kind of an odd thing to say, I thought. But she went on to tell us how she's always hot, and my first thought was, well, that's because you're about 75-100 pounds overweight. I did NOT say anything like that, but I did think it. After your chat last week, I got to wondering, am I a "mean girl" for thinking such a thing? I'm not skinny, in fact I am probably 15 pounds overweight, and was 75 pounds heavier than this several years ago, so I don't think I'm prejudiced or anything. Even at my heaviest weight, I tended to be cold when everyone else was comfortable. I think that's what's making me feel bad about having that thought - isn't it a pretty unfair assumption that her weight is a factor?

Man, women think a LOT more than men.

Why do so many people's acceptance of homosexuality seem to hinge on the fact that, for most people, sexuality is not a choice? This seems to indicate that homosexuality would not be acceptable if it was a choice.

Interesting point!

I think the distinction is important for some people, though.  Those would be the people who, deep down, consider it a deviance, a less moral state of being.  If it is, and if it is a "choice," then you can criticize the person who has chosen it.  It is less easy to do that if the gay person cannot "help" being gay.

But you're right.  It's a bogus concern, I think.   Any gay people wish to weigh in on this?

I didn't get this into the last live chat and sent it to you by e-mail, but wanted to repeat it here. A chatter accused you of being tone deaf with respect to your statement on the rehabilitated rabbi because you were willing to give him greater leeway based on his greater contributions. You responded: “Is it incorrect to suggest that a smarter person with a greater skill set can be of greater value to society than a dumber person with fewer skills? It might be elitist, but is it indefensible?” It is incorrect, it is elitist, and it is indefensible, unless you have much broader definitions of “smarter,” “skill set,” and “value to society,” than the context suggests. Some of the people who have had the greatest effect on my life—my happiness, my perspective, my resiliency, my courage—would, by no definition, be considered especially smart. Some of the people who passed in and out of my life quickly but indelibly had stopped accruing skill sets in middle school. What they all have in common is reverberating decency; you come into their orbit and you leave a better person, and everyone you come in contact with for days afterwards benefits, too. That might be a gifted teacher or brilliant artist. That might also be the young man with Down’s Syndrome who volunteers at the animal shelter doing laundry because “dogs like clean towels.” Decency doesn’t preclude intellect but neither does it require it. Value to society isn’t measured by what is immediately obvious. It can—it should—be measured by what stays with us, and changes us for the better.

Yeah, I agree with all of this. 

"60 percent of all people (no gender breakdown available) open a stall door using toilet paper." How do you open the door using toilet paper if the toilet paper is INSIDE THE STALL?

I think the implication is AFTERWARDS; after all, the inside handle is the one most likely to be poo-contaminated.

Wuss. The Hunt is not for such as you.

This year, in fact, you will have to beat someone up to win.

Gene isn't serious about that. Actually, you will have to pee in a sink.

You don't buy beer. You only rent it.

It's the NEXT renter who really gets scrood.

Gene or chatters... Any tips on where to find small comedy venues in DC? Holes in the wall kind of places or a few steps up, I mean... I know about Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse (which is a step or five above a hole in the wall)... Thanks for any thoughts...

I have not seen standup in D.C. in years, sadly.  Anyone?

The Capitol.

In our family, we like our ketchup ice-cold from the refrigerator. How about yours?

Tom and I tend to defer to Dave on this, out of professional courtesy.

And I have to defer to Gene on whether it is pronounced Cat-sup, Ketch-up, or Cat-soup.

Your family is not welcome at the Hunt, or for that matter in North America.

David Letterman is so bored he wants to be on our Post Hunt team. But he's really cranky. Should we let him?

He may have good insight into the thinking of the Hunt Creators, as he is in the same age range (petrified).


Will there be Porta-Potties this year? Or should we carry personal poop bags and plastic bottles?

Nah. Just hold it.

Yeah, Tom's right.  The "just hold it" requirement means we can move real quickly at the end, during the explanation phase, when you boo us.  People seem to have someplace they really need to go. 

"Did Elaine ever have a horse?" as you so masterfully put it some years ago. I want to say that I am attending this chat solely for the joy of seeing you back here, Dave.

"Did Elaine ever have a horse?" is one of the best lines ever written.   It competes, for example, with the first line of "Lolita."

I have this discussion with a friend of mine who insists that any woman, anywhere, can get laid at any time if she just puts herself out there. I can't imagine that is true if she has standards as far as personal hygiene. I am one of those woman of standards who also has a (not irrational) fear of one-night stands. If male prostitutes were discreet and non-Axe-body-sprayed, do you think more women would use them?

I do not, but what do I know?

In "I'm with Stupid," Gina states flatly that any woman can get laid if she wants to, and I believe her.

What about public showers - health clubs for instance. Is it ok then?

Wait. If GENE says it is ok to pee in public showers, you will act on it? 

It is okay.

WP pages freeze constantly with my Google. No one else's do. Any idea why?

It must be a syntax error in the fluid layout of your boot process connecting to the server.

Sounds like leprosy to me.

The team who won the Post Hunt last year said they figured out the puzzles because they "know how [the puzzle constructors] think." Could you please stop thinking?

We don't think. We argue.

We think we'll have another beer.

Suppose I want to be on a Post Hunt team but don't have any friends. Is there someplace I can meet up with other clever, competitive people on Sunday?

Is this Donald Trump?

This may be a bit late, but I'd like you to weigh in on the BCP journalists that told a story that really helped a particular narrative but turned out to be patently false. The story was told on Facebook and Twitter, and was edited and\or removed once they were called out. It stems from the photo of what appears to be a young white woman struggling with a young black man over a purse. She is aided by two other young white women. One of those women, a journalist with the City Paper, tweeted that the picture does not tell the true story- that in fact the young white woman was drunk and lunged at this poor man trying to steal his bag. Another journalist showed a photo of him dragging this same white woman away from danger- claiming that she was falling down drunk and instigating the rioters. Of course video showed up showing that her purse was in fact snatched, that she was not apparently "fallign down drunk" and most troublingly that the male journalist staged his intervention. The young woman was pleading with guys not to throw chairs through windows when the male journo dragged her away in a staged incident, right down to his videographer yelling "go". The City Paper labeled this a "distraction", and stated that it is not their problem because the mischaracterizations were done via social media, and not in the paper.   The young woman addressed the issue here, with corroborating video. I have problems with the idea of lying in public, particularly as a journalist, but also with the long term effects. Stated best by a commenter to the City Paper: "Any time you lie and deceive to achieve your narrative, you undermine and discredit any other story that actually supports your viewpoint. Now every time a story comes out that discredits the far-right "black people are violent" narrative, people will point to your reporting and say its just some leftist propaganda. Your biased, selfish, and lazy reporting has set this agenda back further in one day than any hate group could hope for."

Well, I just spent half an hour I can never get back trying to make sense of this all.  The defensiveness in the City Paper post is extremely revealing.   Their explanation seems deliberately confused; ergo, a smokescreen.    The fact that the woman was slimed by City Paper people (in their social media dumps, which in today's world is essentially  inextricable from their "official" work product) seems pretty clear.  When a reporter has to apologize to  his editor for his behavior (caught on video), things are not good.  No one is covered in glory here.  Can I stop reading this now?

GW: "Yes, the metronome was gone, and for some people with talent it was liberating. But it also persuaded a lot of knuckleheads that finally, wow, now I can be a poet, too!" This is totally wrong, and you only think it because you've only read the best 19th-century poets, carefully selected by teachers and anthologists. If you read widely in literary magazines, particularly from the latter half of the 19th century, you would be appalled at the quality of diction and syntax, actually made more noxious by the strained efforts to maintain meter and rhyme, and the pointless nostalgic sentimentality that pervades much of it. We've always had bad poets, Gene; you just have more exposure to the current ones.

Okay, now wait a minute.   

I have to answer you unscientifically, via anecdotal evidence.  When I assisted the Czar in judging the Style Invitational, something happened every single time we ran a poetry-related contest (doggerel, actually) which was fairly often: The number of entries dropped dramatically.  Why?  Because  the Style Invitational valued only rhyming poems (rhyme is the whole point of doggerel) and a substantial portion of the very smart and very funny regulars realized (to their credit, and to the benefit of my sensitive ears) that they couldn't compete.   Either you have a sense of rhyme and meter, or you don't, and most people know when they don't.  It has always been astonishing to me how many folks

My point is that the percentage of people who felt they COULD be poets had to be substantially higher back when you knew you had to rhyme.   Ergo, it follows that there were more failed attempts.   I do not doubt or question your contention that there was dreadful poetry back in the era of the bustle, and that it didn't survive, so we don't know about it. 


Gene, A couple of weeks ago I asked you whose regalia you planned to wear to the Nats-Yankees game. A friend of mine who likes both the Nats and the Yankees planned to wear something from each team. You characterized him as a wimp. He took your advice to heart, left the Yankees regalia at home, and came in full Nats regalia. And the Nats won. Neener-neener.


I can't feel bad about a Yankees loss if the winning team was the Nats.  Besides, Molly, sitting next to me, was happy. 

This is a flat out lie. Gene would feel bad if the Yankees lost to his sainted mother.

In fact, the Yankees once beat the crap out of my mother.  I was very torn, if you want to know the truth.

If two people decided to have their wedding ceremony at the Post Hunt, would you donate some confetti or little finger foods?

We love this idea. And no finger foods. But maybe we could make the ceremony into a puzzle.

That would probably be a fantastically brief marriage. I mean that in a good way.

So long as it is consummated. 

What should our team do if we see fire on the horizon?

Capitalize Fire and Horizon, and buy it.

I just bought a $10,000 gold-plated Apple wristwatch. Do you think it will help me win the 2015 Post Hunt?

Not as much as a $13 "Me & Dog"

Aww. You're feeding us straight lines now.

For people who have never attended a Post Hunt before, could you please stress the importance of a full-strength antiperspirant, a drum-size bottle of sunblock, and comfortable walking shoes?


Stay hydrated. 

Some people have gotten good results with heroin.

Instead of walking during the Post Hunt, are we allowed to use other ways to get around, like Segways, rental bikes, skates, scooters, horses?

Also teleportation.

The winning team last year used a nuclear submarine. We cannot reveal how.

...get a small handicap this year? Such as a 30 minute head-start while the locals are milling around Freedom Plaza?

What, your firearms are not enough?

I'm familiar with the debate between people who wipe from the side vs those who come in from the front. However, I recently learned of a third group--those who stand all the way up (apparently afraid of accidentally touching water in the bowl). Has this always been a thing?

I started this chat almost 15 years ago, and one of the first questions was about people who wipe standing up.  The issue has come up repeatedly over the years, and not one of these wretches has ever dropped in to explain, or defend, himself.  Or herself.

Who cares what the pressure of a football is? If Tom Brady likes his balls soft, then it should be his choice. Every coach on the opposing team knows this, and should have his practice offence use low pressure balls while preparing to play the Pats. Converesly, if Aaron Rogers likes hard balls, then he can have them inflated to his heart's desire. At some point, an over- or underinflated ball just won't work well, which will naturally bring all ball pressures into some relatively tight range. What say you?

That is the capitalist view !   The wildly right wing view.   No regulation!  Let the market determine. 

Naturally, I am agin it.

...point a faux canon at the WH as part of a puzzle and claim you're just getting ready to shoot down any rogue drones?

Ever since we aimed that 16-foot tall concrete cannon at the White House, we have been on the No Fly list.

Then what am I doing wrong?! I hate this way of thinking.

The answer is that you are unwilling to lower your standards sufficiently! 

I don't know why everyone doesn't pee in the shower, but everyMAN doesn't do it because everywoman finds it revolting.

But how will they know?  This is a secret thing.  Sink peeing is about the most secret thing on Earth.   I guarantee there will be some frosty and embarrassing conversations at dinner tonight, vis a vis this chat.  And a lot of lying.

Just so you know, you scheduled the Hunt on the same weekend as a Comic Con-type event at the convention center. It will be interesting to see which gathering produces more nerds. They have a slight advantage in that they have BOTH Shatner and Takei, but you have, well, you guys.

Really? Shatner is there? I'm definitely going.

Who among you three do you believe created the most difficult puzzle of the Hunt (not counting the final puzzle)?

No doubt about it, Gene is by far the most difficult. Is that what you were asking?

I would use the word "impossible."

I would use the word "challenging."

Will there be a puzzle involving a flying drone this year? You've had planes with banners in Miami before...

Why are people droning on about this?

I just want to point out that Tom made the "droning on" joke. 

Do you have any specific advice/guidance for improving a 0-26 Hunt record?

Think of it as a contest to lose more Hunts than anyone else in the world. You've got to be close.

Is this the Yankees?

This is sort of like that boring question, "where do you get your story ideas," but where do you get puzzle ideas? I mean, do more of them come from actual things that you see (the layout of downtown D.C.), from current events, or from jokes and silly ideas turned into concrete events?

Basically the process is this:

1. Gene comes up with an idea, which he presents to Tom and me.

2. We point out that it is unbelievably stupid.

3. Gene pouts for about an hour, then comes up with another idea.

4. Which is also unbelievably stupid.

5. And so on.

So basically, we don't know where we get our puzzle ideas. Sorry.

Gene, here's a short article from the Post. Two questions. First, funny or not? Second, what is with the last paragraph of that article? Is that really necessary, journalistically speaking, to include? Are there folks who don't know what ladybugs are, or who might say "Ohhhh, the ones from the nursery rhyme. Riiiiight!"?

I think the story was fine.  A little straight down the middle, but not everything has to be played for yucks, especially where the story itself is funny on the facts.

That last graf might have thudded.  It wouldn't have if "fly away" was ironically interesting, but it wasn't really.

Could you believe that the Irish voted 2-1 to allow gays to marry? What a terrific event that provides optimism that the world is heading in the right direction. Let's hope that the Catholics on the Supreme Court are reading those tea leaves.

I know it got a lot of publicity, but it didn't get enough, IMO.  To me there are vast global repercussions when a largely devout Roman Catholic country says F.U. to the church, on an issue of social equality.   It seems like a tipping point, to me.   Global secularism in the enlightened world.  Yes, I am very elitist.

Go Irish! 

However, saying the world my be going in the right direction because of that is like saying that an axe murderer is going in the right direction because when he took out his cigarette to swing the axe, he didn't just throw the butt on the street.

I would like to say that Tom's analogy is insane.  Just for the record.

Do you think men (maybe people, but I've only experienced it with men) who use all three of their names regularly are likely to be jerks? I am not thinking of names that might function as a single one, such as Mary Ann or Billy Ray, but situations in which someone uses only her or his first name in conversation. Some guy I was one the fence about handed me a business card. I saw "Gideon Nathan Jackson" (not the actual name) and moved him into the "douchebag" column.

This may be shocking from me, but I think some people need to be cut some slack.

James Graham Wilson, the historian.

Edward Bennett Williams, the lawyer.

If your name is James Wilson or Edward Williams, you need some distinctive middle ground.

Aubrey Eugene DeNunkyhaven, not so much.   (That's made up.  But you get the idea.)

Is that you Gene? The one saying people need to be cut some slack about NAMES? Or is it really your less evil twin, Jee'N?

Am I the only one who doesn't get the answer about the camels?

You might be!  But I am glad you asked.

Remember this was about whose CAMEL lost the race.  If they switch camels, each has an incentive to get their first on the other guy's camel, so HIS camel is the slower one.

It's still a 50-50 proposition for both guys, but at least the damn thing is over with, soon.

Re standing up to wipe: I'm a hot female (naturally). Years ago a doctor (and many women's magazines) said to wipe from front to back to avoid infection. Sitting down made no sense, especially (to be graphic) for those of us who have hair. So I stand up, wipe from front to back, and that's that. Easy.


B-but.... okay.

Why is sitting hard or ineffective?

Have you seen the commercial for the lady razor that also has a "groomer" on it? The commercial is that three bikini-wearing ladies walk into the frame and each stand in front of a topiary in need of shaping. Two are using scissors and are getting no where and one is using the advertised product and quickly makes hers into a heart. Each of the topiaries is conveniently located exactly where a woman might use this tool on herself. If they can do that on TV, can't you finally have your topiary chat?


So, a couple years ago I wrote telling you about my tendency to cry when I poop. You consulted Dr. R -- I disagreed with his diagnosis that I was holding my breath/straining, but I wasn't. It is just a normal, not-at-all-painful, not-strained poo. I take less than a minute to do my business. The last year I've been on meds that prevented me from having my normal poos. Things have been a little loosey-goosey. I didn't cry at all that whole time. Now that things are back to normal, I've been crying again, and also experiencing the "poo-phoria" I talked about last time stronger than ever. Seriously -- it isn't quite an orgasm, but often it is the best part of my day. I have to sit in the stall and compose myself for a minute. Dr. R thought I was insane, and he's a butt doc. Does ANYONE ELSE EXPERIENCE THIS?

You are not seriously COMPLAINING about a near-orgasmic experience while pooping, are you?

Is this Elizabeth Dole?

That is directed at Tom, in advance of Sunday.

I hear you saying BOOOOOOOO! and what I actually hear is DREEEWWWWWWWWW!

Go Nats.

As I told Tom yesterday, if Drew Storen had a sense of humor, he should go all Woody Allen at his next interview and say that he finds it disturbing to hear the fans say: "Jeeeeeeeewwwww."

But if all you're doing is peeing, you can use the toilet over and over without flushing, while peeing in the sink would require copious amounts of water every time. And soap, And scouring powder. And disinfectant. And maybe a blowtorch. (Yes, female.)


Hey, kid?  Some  guy has probably peed in your sink.

Or should we just wear what the Emperor wore?

There are required Hunt undergarments, but we've never told people what they are.  Hint: Mitt Romney. 

What do you think of Dylan choosing to sing an old standard instead of one of his own songs on Letterman?

I think we should all complain about Dylan's song selection, because he REALLY cares what we think.

At least they talked him out of his original idea, which was juggling.

... the final question in today's poll. I cannot believe that more than three-quarters of my fellow lady-type people both pick their noses and pee in the shower. (One or the other, but not both.)

Oh, you understood!  That response was one of the delights of the poll, and I commend and salute all women for their honesty.

I don't have a smartphone. Could I use my abacus instead?

Is this Hillary?

President Obama doesn't have to worry about being re-elected any more, so he can do all the stupid stuff he wants. Wouldn't this be a good year for him to compete in the Post Hunt?

Next year.  It's practically set. 

He's already a better writer than any of the three of us, so no reason to think he wouldn't actually WIN the Hunt on his first try.

What makes you think he has never competed?

Gene, I accidentally came upon a solution to airplane recliners. I like to turn on the overhead air, but point it so I get just the edge of the cold air (too much gives me a headache). I started pointing it forward, and I noticed recliners would lean back and then sit back up after a few minutes.

It's an old trick.  The real sin here is that the airlines force us into combat over this.

Hi Gene. You may recall the tragic murder last month of a young DC lawyer; he had gotten a hotel room for what he thought was a male to male sexual liaison, but what turned out to be a robbery set up that resulted in his death. In discussing the contents of the hotel room, many local outlets included details (ie, condoms, lube, enemas) that made clear what had been the intended purpose of the hotel room. However, the Post omitted those details, making it more difficult for readers to understand the context. When do you leave those kind of details in stories, and when is it appropriate to omit them?

It's a tough call; I think the dignity of the innocent victim is not inconsequential.  If the Post story made it otherwise clear what had happened -- and I think it did -- I think the details are then unnecessary.

I'm with you on the death penalty, but the fact that the U.S. is in the same league as a bunch of other countries may not be decisive to the argument. Most of the countries you list are despotic, theocratic, autocratic, etc. By contrast, a few of them, such as Japan and Taiwan, are advanced democracies with healthy civil societies, and not at all in the same category as China or Saudi Arabia or North Korea. So we can't necessarily assume that other countries that have the death penalty have "primitive" political systems.

No, sorry.  Japan, Taiwan and the U.S. are the wild outliers.   Virtually all other countries we have any respect for outlawed the death penalty years ago.  We are with the totalitarians and the religious fanatics.

Sigh. I often agree with your bleeding-heart lefty politics, but this anti-death penalty rant has really turned me off. Reasons I can support for why it's not the best: - it costs more per prisoner than a life sentence, because of all the appeals & other associated costs - it is not a deterrent for others - a small number of people have ended up on death row, or executed, despite being later proven innocent - life in prison is debatable a worse fate than death, especially for those who are likely to draw ire from fellow inmates (like him) Reasons that totally fail to me: - other countries "like us" don't do it - "bad" countries do it - state-sanctioned killing is 'murder' or otherwise morally wrong - there is no crime bad enough to deserve death Perhaps similarly, I don't think animal euthenasia is wrong when compared to a life in a cage because they are injured/ill/otherwise unadoptable. I am way-lefty on taxes, immigration, abortion, education, federal & state aid programs, drug decriminalization, and so much more. I think the mandated minimum sentencing was one of the worst decisions of my lifetime. But death penalty? I have zero issues with that. Perhaps I'm a bad liberal.

You have not explained at all coherently WHY the death penalty doesn't bother you.  You set out a whole bunch of reasons why it should bother you, and then you said, but, whoop, it doesn't! 

This doesn't seem like much of an argument to me.


I have vacillated on the death penalty for a long time. I used to argue that in the clear case of a really bad person like Ted Bundy or the Tsarnaev brothers I'd be happy to pull the switch. Then I considered the fact that we do not trust our own government to deliver really important mail - how can we trust it on the issue of life and death? Then I started thinking about how many innocents have been released from death row due to DNA, Innocence Project, etc. Now I am in the same camp as you: should the leading nation of the world still be executing ANYONE? It doesn't make me feel like I live in a very enlightened nation and your list of our death penalty fellow travelers reinforces that opinion.

Yeah.   Look at the list of countries that still execute people, and the list of countries that don't.

We are in foul, foul company. 

Tsarnaev is bad, but you know who else really challenges my anti-Death Penalty convictions? The guy who invaded the home in NW, held four people hostage until they arranged for $40,000 to be delivered, then beat and stabbed them to death anyway,  including a 10-year-old boy, and burnt the house down. In the end, I say let him rot in prison forever, but man.

Any guess how many times the DC police performs a DNA test on pizza when the victim is a young African American man from Anacostia? I'm guessing zero, but when the victims are white, rich and on CNN, the DC police actually tries to find out who did it.

Sadly, I fear you are right.  I'd like to think this is less about race and money than about the particular savagery of the crime, and the hell that this family was put through, but I fear you are right.

I see what you're saying about the name, but it's more like a license plate than an aptonym. The aptonymic (?) quality is lost when the name is pronounced rather than seen in print. But I get it.

This is about my chat update acknowledgment of Dr. Jennifer Doudna, the DNA researcher.   I called it a subtle but great aptonym.

The distinction you raise is the great Boehner conundrum.  Is a 'nym to be judged on how it is written, or how it is pronounced?  I would argue that where most people don't know HOW the name is pronounced (not true with Boehner, obviously, but true with Dr. Doudna) spelling transcends.

Seriously, if the Virginia gynecologist Harry Beaver pronounced his last name "bwa-VAY" or something, would you vote to dump him from the aptonymic hall of fame?  I think not.  I very much think not.  

I'm an engineer. You're journalists. But I think we can agree on one thing. There's objective reality, and then there's everything else. I'm not saying that subjective observations, thoughts, etc. are valueless, just that there should be a clear distinction between what we can PROVE to be true, and what we have to take someone's word on. And if you're manipulating the former in service of the latter, then shame, shame, shame.

Is this Camus?

For those who think that there's something wrong with peeing in the shower because of the grossness that will linger there until the end of time, think about what happens to the detritus that you loose upon your shower when you warsh your backside.

Thank you.

In your opinion, which Huckabee stance is more bizarre - doubling down on support for the Duggar molester or pimping a diabetes "cure" based on massive consumption of Coca-Cola?

He has just taken himself out of the race, with both. 

Sorry!  My computer just crashed!

I was gone for five minutes!  It was intolerable!

I take this as a sign from God, and declare the chat done! thank you all and hope to see massive numbers of you at The Hunt.

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

Gene's latest columns, chats and more.
Tom Shroder
Tom Shroder has been an award-winning journalist for more than 30 years. As editor of The Washington Post Magazine, he edited multiple Pulitzer Prize-winning features. He's also edited humor columns by Dave Barry, Gene Weingarten and Tony Kornheiser, as well as conceived and launched the internationally syndicated comic strip, Cul de Sac, by Richard Thompson.
Dave Barry
Dave Barry is a humor columnist. For 25 years he was a syndicated columnist whose work appeared in more than 500 newspapers in the United States and abroad. In 1988 he won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary. Many people are still trying to figure out how this happened.

Dave has also written a total of 30 books, although virtually none of them contain useful information. Two of his books were used as the basis for the CBS TV sitcom "Dave's World," in which Harry Anderson played a much taller version of Dave.
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