Chatological Humor: Monthly with Moron

Mar 27, 2018

Gene Weingarten held his monthly chat with readers. br />
Today there are two polls.
Poll 1.

Poll 2 (under 40)
Poll 2 (over 40) 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.

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Good afternoon.   If you haven't already taken the polls, please take them now, since I am going to be talking about them for the rest of the introduction.  Capisce?  So, do it now. 

Good. 

My friend Tom Scocca says "sensitivity reader" is "something that sounds bad but is good," and I do see his point.  It chafes the the wrong way, in a skin-crawly fashion, but I have experiences of my own in which an editor, who was basically acting as a "sensitivity reader," saved me from writing something inadvertently bad.   I have also had editors annoyingly object to things that were not objectionable.  I am conflicted on this subject.  

The first example of a "sensitivity reader" gone amok occurred in Rome in 1566 when the Catholic church ordered Michelangelo's "Last Judgement," in the Sistine Chapel, re-painted to eliminate what they considered disrespectful nudity in figures of saints, demons and whatnot.  They hired some guy to paint over the naughty bits, putting clothing on them; forever after the fixer, a good painter in his own right, became widely derided as "Il braghetonne," or "the breeches maker."   (The church waited until Michelangelo had died before desecrating his work; this is because Michelangelo was known not to take criticism lightly.  When someone demanded frumpy changes in his work, the artist would dutifully repaint it, inserting the critic into the work in the form of, say, a vomiting donkey.

So, this was a pretty bad decision. 

A more recent example that I just discovered is equally wonderful.  Have you ever seen the 1975 Scorsese film "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore"?   It stars Ellen Burstyn as a women who had been a carefree, kick-ass, protofeminist child but who then got beaten down by life and adulthood, and had to reclaim her gumption.   It was a really good movie.  You should Netflix it if you can. 

The opening sequence of "Alice" is of a nine-year-old Alice, played by ten-year old actress Mia Bendixsen, walking over a bridge, singing.  You should watch it here -- it's just a minute long -- but make sure you watch it until the end of the girl's scene.   

Spoiler alert coming. 

I remember watching this when it came out, and bursting out laughing at the key moment.  I'd never quite seen anything like that in a movie, out of the mouth of a kid.  I've remembered it to this day as a marvelously funny and revealing bit of cinema. 

It almost didn't happen, as it turned out.  On the set of that film was a woman whose job was to be a child's advocate -- telling the director what you could or could not make a child do.   An early "sensitivity reader," if you will.  The advocate told Scorsese he could not have her say that line, period.   He had shot one imperfect take of it already, but she informed him he could not reshoot it. 

This was Scorsese, of course.   He took the imperfect take and used it.   Essentially, he told the woman to BIOYA.  

I myself have been victimized (or almost victimized) by oversensitive editors acting as sensitivity readers.  In my case, the problem is often about humor.  An editor appointing himself a sensitivity reader is not at all invested in keeping the column funny; his job, as he sees it, is to make things prim and proper and inoffensive; this sometimes quarrels mightily with humor.   Sometimes, a change is necessary, but often it is so inimical that the requirement of humor should allow a slight risk to sensibilities.   

I once wrote a column in which I was ostensibly celebrating the whilesale firing of newspaper copyeditors, but was actually doing the opposite.  The column was filled with dozens of errors of all types.  At one point, I noted that one of the jobs of the copyeditor was catching the occasional inadvertent cultural insensitivity, and then I wrote: "Because the job requires patience, maturity, intelligence, attention to detail, and an extremely sedentary workday, fat old Jewish ladies have often made good copyeditors."   An editor, acting as a sensitivity reader, had a cow.  I had to fight it all the way to the top.  It stayed.  

However.   I have also been saved.  I recently wrote a column about foods I described as weird, and an excellent, talented copyeditor at the Post magazine, a Filipina named Jennifer Abella, tactfully but firmly pointed out to me that she grew up eating at the dinner table some of the foods I was describing as weird.  A minor fix repaired what would have been a needless offense to a whole bunch of people.

So.  I am conflicted.   I think mostly sensitivity readers are a good idea, so long as they are advisory and not supervisory. Final creative call must belong to writer and editor.

--

As far as the jokes, I have one overarching observation.  If you think these jokes are poor, you don't know squat about standup.  This is an amazing group of one-liners, all of which have merit and some of which are truly excellent.  

Dave Barry's picks, in no particular order, were HIF.   Mine were HAF.    I believe F was clearly the best.  "On his deathchair" is magnificent.

The weakest is probably G, but it still has merit.  

Speaking of jokes, here's one I just invented all by myself.    

Q: What American city smells like s----?

A: Butt, Montana.

 

-

Pat the Perfect submits this extraordinarily good aptonym

And with that, we're off.  We start at noon sharp. 

 

 

 

who kindly inform you its "Butte" not "Butt"? 50? 100?

Four, so far. 

This applies to all-day professional conferences, not office meetings, but I will share in the interest of improving life for the thousands of DC area folks who are required by their jobs to participate in ritualistic convocations. (1) If your presentation is right before lunch, shorten it a little. (2) If your presentation is right before the cocktail hour, shorten it a lot.

Good.   What if it is right before a bathroom break? 

I have shortened my address right up there at the lectern when I realized that it wasn't going over as well as I'd hoped.  My worst case was when I once addressed the Humane Society right during their free-bar happy hour.   People in the audience were quite smashed, and talking loudly amongst themselves.   

My giant problem was that the following Sunday my column was essentially a transcript of my speech, identified as such,  and it was already printed.  I HAD to give the whole speech.  It was ghastly. 

"News in Brief: Completely Unfair That Man Ended Up On Sex Offender Registry Just For Public Urination On A Child" I know that you say anything is fair game for humor but I found that story offensive. I don't think any kind of abuse of a child is humorous. Combined with the Onion's recent limited vocabulary such that the only verb or adjective they seem to know now starts with fu I've had it with them. I unsubscribed from their daily update.

This is not an easy call, but I am okay with this.  I thought it wasn't funny until I got to the line about what other guys use the alley for. Alert: This has the f word and such.  And is about, you know. 

Hi Gene, I'm wondering what you think of this joke: - - - - - An atheist was seated next to a little girl on an airplane and he turned to her and said, “Do you want to talk? Flights go quicker if you strike up a conversation with your fellow passenger.” The little girl, who had just started to read her book, replied to the total stranger, “What would you want to talk about?” “Oh, I don’t know,” said the atheist. “How about why there is no God, or no Heaven or Hell, or no life after death?” as he smiled smugly. “Okay,” she said. “Those could be interesting topics but let me ask you a question first. A horse, a cow, and a deer all eat the same stuff – grass. Yet a deer excretes little pellets, while a cow turns out a flat patty, but a horse produces clumps. Why do you suppose that is?” The atheist, visibly surprised by the little girl’s intelligence, thinks about it and says, “Hmmm, I have no idea.” To which the little girl replies, “Do you really feel qualified to discuss God, Heaven and Hell, or life after death, when you don’t know crap?” And then she went back to reading her book. - - - - - My Facebook friend thinks this joke is funny because it involves a child sassing a know-it-all adult and doesn't read anymore into it than that. On the other hand I think it's unfunny, because part of the engine that drives the joke is the supposition that atheists are obnoxious and dickish, and live for the thrill of preemptively engaging Christians and telling them, essentially, how stupid they are. To me this can only be funny if you kind of accept the caricature, but I've met a lot more Christians who look to engage atheists for no good reason than the other way around. Bottom line for me is that it traffics in untrue stereotypes while attempting to validate the same stereotypes. This is much the same reason I thought "God's Not Dead" was such an awful movie. What do you think? Am I wound too tightly in this case?

I think the joke is reasonably funny, and I think stereotypes are reasonably funny -- and the engine of many worthy jokes -- and am unofended by that.  The joke does not depend on your believing all atheists are obnoxious proselytizers.  

So is this unfunny because most Christians are not absurd, impractical  faith-blinded zealots?  --

 

A fellow was stuck on his rooftop in a flood. He was praying to God for help.

Soon a man in a rowboat came by and the fellow shouted to the man on the roof, "Jump in, I can save you."

The stranded fellow shouted back, "No, it's OK, I'm praying to God and he is going to save me."

So the rowboat went on.

Then a motorboat came by. "The fellow in the motorboat shouted, "Jump in, I can save you."

To this the stranded man said, "No thanks, I'm praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith."

So the motorboat went on.

Then a helicopter came by and the pilot shouted down, "Grab this rope and I will lift you to safety."

To this the stranded man again replied, "No thanks, I'm praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith."

So the helicopter reluctantly flew away.

Soon the water rose above the rooftop and the man drowned. He went to Heaven. He finally got his chance to discuss this whole situation with God, at which point he exclaimed, "I had faith in you but you didn't save me, you let me drown. I don't understand why!"

To this God replied, "I sent you a rowboat and a motorboat and a helicopter, what more did you expect?"

 

I’ve been reading you for a long time, but don’t think I’ve ever seen the rules behind higgledy piggledy. I usually blow past them in these discussions because they are pretty stupid. But then I thought that was unfair since I don’t understand them. So please (re)share the rules so I can unhypocritically confirm they are stupid.

The rules are challenging, which is why I love them. 

Most of them are written in double dactylic lines, which go BUM-bum-bum BUM-bum bum.   The only rhyme is the last word in the last line of both stanzas, and that line is not dactylic, it is bum-bum-bum-BUM.    The first line are nonsense syllables, the second line the name of a person and somewhere in the poem, usually in the second stanza, one line must be a single double-dactylic words, such as "unceremonious."

Here is a higgledy I wrote, about the creator of the double dactyl 

 

Higgledy Piggledy
Anthony Hecht, who could 
Write about death in words
Epic yet warm,

Went to his own with some
Counterintuitive
Logic; his legacy's
This stupid form.

Sometimes stand-up comedy doesn't translate well to the page. A comedian communicates much with his timing, his tone, his facial expressions, his body language. I can imagine each of those jokes being delivered in ways that would incite pants-ripping belly laughs, or flat incomprehension.

I think it would be very hard to blow any of these jokes.  Some require more acting than others, though.  The one about not liking camping or death would depend a lot on delivery. 

Gary Larsen wrote about the hate mail he received for his cartoon where a dog wrote “cat fud” on a sign and stuck it on the clothes dryer. A CARTOON.

About dogs and cats.  And a great one. 

 

The question I always feel that those in favor of aborting a fetus with Down syndrome dance around: Where do you draw the line? What happens when we have the technology to determine whether a fetus will develop bipolar, or depression? Or Crohns, or diabetes, or cancer? Or mild mental retardation? Or a missing limb? Clearly there's a red line somewhere--but where is it, and who determines what it is? And what do we do when it keeps shifting (as it surely will)? Shouldn't parents have the right to say that they didn't sign up to raise a child with schizophrenia, or depression, or autism?

I have an easy answer to this, but it's just me.   Since I believe in any woman's right to abort for any reason, so long as it is early in the pregnancy, I don't think these issues matter.  If you are callous enough to decide to abort a 10-week old fetus that is missing a pinky finger, it's your right.  

I see that quite a few liked A, including you. I had not heard of the paper-folding myth, although I surmised that it existed from the joke) and had to look it up. That ruins it. "Deathchair" was good, but J, where there's life after death that just doesn't include the dead, cracked me up.

Basically, you could select most of these as the best joke, and not be wrong. 

What is the funniest plague?

Frogs.  Hands down.   Although there are some interpretations that say "emerods" is hemorrhoids, so that would be the funniest. 

As a former newspaper reporter and current PR/marketing hack, I remember every lousy edit ever inflicted on my copy. (There were great editors and edits too but I only remember the bad ones.) That history and the fact that I'm 57 may make you think I'd be against the role of sensitivity readers. But I can see their purpose. Some images/metaphors are so ingrained (dark = bad; light = good) that it's good to shake them up. And even though I've traveled a lot and am pretty open minded, there's a lot about different cultures and their histories that I don't know -- so a reminder or a second set of eyes makes sense. I thought, however, some of the edits were just clumsy in the story. Why change the description of the flow of the hair? Why inject a trite adjective like "sun-kissed"? You have to be very careful with such editing.

Agreed. 

Gene, please help me understand why this is a good joke. Thanks.

Because of its succinctness, and because the second line arrives without warning, and is a surreal coda to the first line.  You think it is going one direction, but it goes the other.  What Dave Barry calls judo. 

That reminds me of the two jokes about the comedy writers' convention.

I know one involving numbers.  What is the other?

"I HAD to give the whole speech." Nah -- since they were smashed, they wouldn't have remembered what you said, and wouldn't have known anything was amiss when they saw your column the next day.

You miss the point.  I would have known the column was a lie, if in fact portions of it had NOT been in my speech.  I won't do that. 

Wow. A stupider opinion I have rarely come across. Double dactyls require talent and exactitude. They're brilliant.

I am in love with the form precisely because it is so difficult. 

Higgledy-piggledy Stephanie Clifford, a Porn star with moxie has smacked Donald's ass. Sex with the Donald was unsatisfactory. Payment for silence can't Stop Stormy's sass.

nah.  Inelegant.   Two "Donalds."   ass and sass is a bad rhyme.   Sass isn't really the right word. 

 

Higgledy-piggledy/  Stephanie Clifford, a / Porn star with moxie / Acting with class /  Trumpian sex proving  / Unsatisfactory. / (In more ways than one she has / Smacked Donald's ass.)

I would like one assigned to me, to let the press know when the news is going to make me sad, disgusted, and fearful. Please. These will not be hard decisions to make. Yosemite Sam is now the National Security Advisor. Help.

I love that Yosemite Sam line. 

We really like the song Real Love Baby by Father John Misty, and are considering it for the first dance at our wedding. The problem is, I'm entirely incompetent at interpreting the meaning of any song's lyrics. On its face, this song seems pretty straightforward. But there's not some ulterior meaning, inappropriate for a wedding, that we're missing here, is there?

Okay, you asked, so I feel empowered to answer. 

I think the lyrics are pap crap.    I'm a flower, you're my bee?  Really?

 

And what the HELL does this mean:  "We're not animals, baby, it's the people who lie..."

So the lovers are lying? 

Butte, Montana

Sigh. 

I actually think the changes make the book much better, more because it makes the passages fall less into tropes, and become more creative.

I think it is almost a wash.   In this case, I didn't find the changes particularly persuasive. 

These polls are an inside joke, right? Each of the jokes on a scale of 0 to 10 rates a 0, so they cannot possibly be ranked. And the book... the writing was dreadful in the first place. After the corrections, it is equally dreadful.

Again, sigh.  

In his most recent diatribe against people who don't choose to knowingly have a disabled child, George Will's description of the effects of Down Syndrome included this nugget: "This is a congenital condition resulting from a chromosomal abnormality. It involves varying degrees of mental retardation (although probably not larger variances than exist between the mental capabilities of many people who are chromosomally normal — say, Isaac Newton and some people you know)." And his point is . . . ? It's not even clear what "comparable" means here. Maybe he means that the variation in retardation among Down people (whose IQs tend to vary from 35 to 70 on a scale where "average" is 100) is comparable to the range between average and Isaac Newton, but that is both untrue and irrelevant. Or maybe he means that moderately cognitively disabled Down people are no more below average than Newton was above, which comes closer to true but is also irrelevant. Isaac Newton could function as an independent adult, and so can most chromosomally normal people, or at least if they can't it's not because of congenital issues. Being below that threshold matters; once you are above it, it doesn't matter how far for purposes of this discussion. I get that for George Will, it's hard to resist the opportunity to disparage people less smart than he thinks he is. But does he really imagine he's going to persuade his audience of arrogant liberal elitists by surmising that their Down babies won't be that much less smart than "people you know" and disdain?

This is interesting, but I want to use this moment to point out that George Will wrote a really great column the other day. 

I know this topic is a bit old, but I think the best implement to remove earwax is an old-fashioned bobby pin. The end is a perfect size to insert into the ear, no adjustments are necessary.

Noted. 

Hey, I just found this.  It's gorgeous.  Johnny Carson as Ronald Reagan, in a Who's On First gig. 

The last line of a double dactyl is not bum bum bum BUM, but BUM bum bum BUM. It's called a choriamb.

True dat.  

Was the hate mail from cat-lovers, aghast at the dog's intention to harm a cat, or from dog-lovers, insulted that the Larson was intimating that the dog couldn't spell?

I'm sure it was from cat lovers, complaining that it was inviting washer-dryer violence against cats. 

What's the difference between karate and judo? One is a form of self defense, and the other makes bagels.

Took me ten seconds! 

Gene, as a go-to for journalism ethics question, I have to come to you about the piece in the paper today profiling the mother of the young man who killed his ex-girlfriend's parents in Fairfax. I know WaPo has a policy of not identifying juveniles charged with crimes and that identifying this woman by name would indirectly identify the killer, but, I thought the profile was way too sympathetic to this mother. Maybe if the writer pushed back on the the mother too much, the story would not have happened or the Post was sensitive that too much pushback would "dox" the mother. But to let her assert that her son was mentally disturbed (which he probably was) and that was the primary cause for this tragedy (not his vehement alt-right support), without any pushback was a disservice to his victims. This mother left an unsecured gun in the house of an extremely mentally disturbed young man! He had a court case pending, and a condition of probation was he must stay off the internet, but yet this woman let him have a smart phone and a tablet! It has been widely reported elsewhere that she has posted support for Confederate generals, the Confederate flag and Confederate monuments. She posted a picture of her son shooting an assault-style rifle on vacation! I don't know if I have a question, but I just found the piece to really be off-putting and not balanced. I think this person should be identified. I think the reporter should have asked harder questions about the teen's online presence, the gun, his mother's online presence, etc. I just feel like this piece really missed the mark, and I have to wonder what it added to the telling of the story that has not already been covered.

I don't agree with you.  

I don't think this story is letting the mother off the hook: The entire POINT of the story is that she blames herself, and she makes a convincing argument that she SHOULD blame herself.   

I also think the story serves an important social purpose.  Other parents in similar situations might recognize their children in this case, and take preventive action.  

From Jennifer Rubin’s Right Turn column potent legal challenges... On Tuesday, yet another woman alleging that she had an affair with Trump, Karen McDougal, filed suit to invalidate her nondisclosure agreement. In this case, she is suing the National Enquirer, whose parent company’s chief executive, David J. Pecker, is a friend of Trump’s. McDougal claims Michael Cohen was behind this deal as well, which fits a pattern of buying and squelching negative stories about Pecker’s pal. David Pecker buying & holding stories about Trump using his!

Indeed.   Alas, he should have been Dick Pecker. 

The pregnant person decides. This is not hard.

Sure.  I think most of us agree with that.  But are you arguing that a clearly viable healthy late-term fetus should be terminable?  I am quite a lefty on this issue, and a vocal defender of choice, but even I don't go thate.  

You'll need to put in line breaks here. The jokes are really old. A comedy writer invites a friend who’s not in the business to accompany him to the convention dinner. Random numbers are called out, eliciting laughs of varying degrees. One guy just falls off his chair laughing, and rolls on the floor. Friend: “What’s with the numbers?” Writer: “Oh, all the jokes that can be thought up already have been, so to save time we just assign them numbers and everyone knows which joke it is.” Friend: “What about that guy who’s still laughing?” Writer: “Oh, I guess he never heard that one before.” So the friend gets up and shouts “73!” and is met with dead silence. Friend: “Huh?” Writer: “Some people just don’t know how to tell a joke.”

uh, that's the one involving numbers... 

Remember that Dan Quayle got all in a lather over Murphy Brown's out-of-wedlock child. And that was a SIT-COM on television!

It wasn't just that the child was out of wedlock.  It was that the painter guy, with whom Murphy had no romantic relationship, moved in to act as the dad.   As I recall, Murphy stepped out of character for a moment and said "How's that for family values?"  It was sort of a shot across the bow of the religious right. 

Not my original, but: Who you gonna trust--the fake blonde with the big boobs, or the porno babe?

Nice. 

To the person who wrote in about the beekeeper joke, yes, I think it is spectacularly funny, one of the best, but I cannot publish your summary because it destroys the joke. 

Unless there was something else more egregious that we weren't shown she shouldn't have changed the book. None of the jokes were especially funny to me.

I think the thing we weren't shown was the overall story; I suspect she changed some plot elements that seemed patronizing to the Natives.   As to the jokes, you are 1) wrong  and 2) there might be something deficient in your sense of humor, or at least in your appreciation of one-liners.  Serious question: What DO you find funny?

maybe it's a British thing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_-HIxXRfOY

I didn't see where this was going.  Nice wrapup. 

I have a feeling a lot of people are going to bemoan that the author rewrote this book and that the idea of sensitivity readers is dumb. I'm not sold on the idea of sensitivity readers (I think it would be better for publishers to focus their efforts on just hiring authors of color and other underrepresented groups), but I actually think this whole story is a really good thing. This is an author who admits she straight up did not even think about how parts of her book might negatively reflect on certain groups. She's not a bad person - this is just part of the privilege she has as a white woman to not have to think about it (as I do, too). When people brought up their concerns, she actually listened to them and, instead of just getting defensive, made changes. That's really good! Most times when people get called out for being insensitive, they turn it into how they're being hurt and attacked and never stop to consider if they have actually hurt others. It's hard to do but necessary, so I think this was a wonderful step. Now, this isn't to say that any time a group of people on social media start making accusations that they're right. But I do think people in the majority really need to start being aware of these issues and how what they do affects others, and if sensitivity readers is one way to do this, I'm OK with this. Just as long as white authors and editors making use of these readers are also supporting and doing what they can to bring up authors of color.

Yeah, I agree with this completely, with one caveat.  I think that it is vital that sensitivity readers are consultants only.   People asked to deliver their opinions, not to order changes.  The final creative decisions need to rest with writer and editor. 

Because someone needs to learn the consequences of lustful behaviour. It appears to me that it isn't about being anti-abortion, but about being anti-pleasure. The anti-abortion advocates are saying that the only reason to have intercourse is to procreate and the consequences are a baby. No matter what their argument is, it all comes down to "she shouldn't have had sex then". Read all the comments, all the justifications, what these people say is a female is bad for having sex for pleasure, and that er penultimate role is as a breeder. That is why all the cons say stupid stuff like, if it was real rape God would not let her get pregnant. It is all about conservative religious interpretation and shaming females. To the person who what asking about abortion because of sex, IQ, etc. You are using whataboutism to dismiss a position by trying to bring up an unrelated topic. You are using defensive propaganda to attack your opponent by deflecting from the real topic at hand. You can just say no, you don't agree with abortion because of DS. You are creating a false equivalency. You are implying that there are no shades of gray. It is an argument in bad faith. Your self-righteousness is showing. Until the citizens of this country unite and agree that social programs are a priority for society and government funding, to ensure that every single person receives equality in legal representation, health care, education, mental health care, infrastructure access, equal representation, etc.; the government has no place in mandating these decisions.

Agreed entirely. 

FDR was a stamp collector. His college classmate and political opposite in most things, Bill Donovan, went abroad often after WW1 and would buy stamps for FDR. Donovan of course became the head of OSS, forerunner of the CIA, in WW2. (Also had been the commander of the regiment in WW1 in which the poet Joyce Kilmer was killed---not as one would expect for having written the egregious poem, Trees, but for snooping around in No-Man's-Land.)

Okay, I think we need to dispense with this. 

I criticized people who spend time giving a crap about what the stamps look like that they use to mail their payment to Pepco or Comcast.   These are gigantic-issue stamps.  This is not philately, where  you are collecting historically significant, rare, significant things.  This is caring about whether you stamp shows a clown or a cloud or a tree.  

I keep missing the live chats, but had to put in my .02 (stamp): Who cares about what stamp they use? *I* do! (and apparently many others, otherwise why would the Post Office offer so many different kinds, instead of just one??) I *refuse* as a matter of principle to put a "pretty" stamp on a bill or similar type of postage. I only use the typical flag stamps for those. Companies I'm paying aren't worth the extra time or thought. But after that, I choose the stamp as close to the reason for the letter (or person) I'm sending, and I take great delight in that! Birthday stamps, "love" stamps, and such go to family members. Specialty stamps (honoring a person, cause, etc.) go on letters or cards to people who would most appreciate them. The Post Office even had these cool circular "ball" stamps -- they look like a tennis ball, volleyball, golf ball, etc. -- so cool! so my P.E. teacher friends got these. The shark ones were really cool, too (Too bad, Trump should have gotten lots of those, but something tells me he doesn't care about the type of stamps he uses.) So yes, clearly I do care about the stamps I use, and I know that my recipients notice them, too. I love the Post Office, my mailmen/ladies, and the service they provide -- ever have, since I was a little girl living on a rural route. I'd put my 3 (or so) pennies taped to a card and ask our carrier for a stamp, and so she started a love with getting mail and yes, stamps. (Any time we got a letter, that was a cause for a real celebration-actually, still is!) My Post Office now is a rural, one room place that has limited hours (they were going to close it, thank goodness they didn't!), and the post-misstress would always show me the cool stamps they got in for the holidays, as she knew I would love to see them. (I hadn't known that the more an office sells, the more different and neat stamps they are sent.) So, given that the Post Office is always in need of money, I consider it part of my civic duty to help them out -- and this is one I'm glad to complete. Keep in mind I don't take forever to ask - I do try to keep in mind how many people are in line behind me - but at our Post Office, people come there to take some time (and talk), not generally hurry out. (You catch up with all the latest, there!) And there's enough darkness in the world today, that if I can add a little brightness - even if it's only on my end - I try to do that. So next time your in line behind someone choosing stamps, consider it part of your civic duty, too :-)

Okay, okay.  

I understand none of your passion, but will accept it.  I still think it's like caring what the soles of your shoes look like.  Or putting truck nuts on your car.   I just don't ... get it.  

I will tell you that just the other day I was at the post office getting stamps and the lady asked what kind I wanted and I said I didn't care, and didn't understand people who did care and spent time choosing.  And she smiled and rolled her eyes. 

I disagree with what the author did. Should Mark Twain's "Tom Sawyer" be re-edited? We are living in the United States of the Offended now, where people get offended at the slightest perceptions. Grow up, bunch of sissies!!

I don't go this far.   I can see cases where there would be value in this.  

The vice chancellor for student affairs at UC-Irvine is Edgar Dormitorio

Very nice. 

I am an atheist Jew and I will happily slap the baby Jesus stamps on my letters. Because who gives a sheet?

Sure.  I have.  

I disagree with the passionate poster in the sense that I don't think many people who receive letters even glance at the stamp. 

Once again, this morning I am jarred by the errors that appear in online reporting. A SF Chronicle reporter used "phased" when the correct word is "fazed." I am in constant despair about seemingly good writers unable to correctly use "its" in a sentence. The good sisters of St. Joseph who taught me correct grammar are sorely missed.

So are copyeditors at newspapers.  When Pat Myers left the paper, The Post lost someone who is 1) phenomenally knowledgeable about almost all subject, from classical music to football.  2) simply the greatest error-backstop in the world  3) hilariously funny, so would never inadvertently rape humor through a copyedit.  

She smiled and rolled her eyes because you were being a belligerent jerk. If you'd stopped at "I don't care" you wouldn't have burdened her with your snide comment about people who do care. Do you think you made her day or something?

Nope.  I was there.  She was commiserating.  We continued talking about it for five seconds more. 

By the way, I should say I am taken aback by how many people are defending caring about stamps.  It does mean I am off base in my generalization here.  Also how pissed off my position is making them!  This is somehow an emotional issue. 

I wish one of her readers had told her to switch to story tense instead of present tense.

I try to never do present tense.  I am doing my book in entirely past tense. 

I would wager that most of the people aghast at the idea of a sensitivity reader don't quite understand the writing and editing process -- and how fluid things are to begin with. Introducing a sensitivity reader -- especially in today's day and age -- to make suggestions on that topic is a wise choice. Assuming, of course, it's a suggestion and not a dictate. Why WOULDN'T you want someone to make sure you're not offending a wide swath of people??

Basically, I agree, so long as you are not also at the mercy of a cringing editor, who will take the criticism as an order to be obeyed. 

Are you required to host this chat, Gene? Do you derive any pleasure or satisfaction from doing it? Do you enjoy being in the power seat, determining whose questions are answered and how? Do you like having a position from which to judge? Do you ever feel amazed/humbled by the people who show up every week just to read or participate in YOUR chat? I mean no snark by these questions. I am genuinely curious how you feel about doing these things -- are you the curmudgeon you seem to be or are you actually a people person? Speaking as a slightly misanthropic introvert, I actually think I'd kinda get off on hosting "my own chat."

I like it a lot.  I don't think it's an issue of power.  I like being known intimately to readers, but mostly I feed off the readers' passions and interest and curiosity, and I feel I am helping amplify that.  If the attendance / enthusiasm started to wane, I might give it up, or cut back.  But so far that hasn't happened, for which I am really grateful. 

OK, I also like spewing my sometimes outrageous opinions. 

But the question is that there is no doubt that the joke is spectacularly funny but many don't laugh or get it. How is that possible?

I once discussed this very subject in a chat.   Gene 2.0, can you find it?

The ridiculousness of the headline aside, the subject of this profile has a fantastic aptonym! https://www.inquisitr.com/1585941/is-this-the-coolest-priest-in-the-world-tattooed-bearded-hipster-priest-rides-skateboards-spreads-the-word-of-the-lord/

If this is in fact the name he was born with, it is spectacular. 

Along with his other good attributes (dog lover, road builder....), Hitler was a vegetarian (which may have caused his uncontrollable flatulence).

Actually, Hitler ate meat -- he loved liver dumplings and sausages and pigeon and caviar -- until roughly the outbreak of WWII in Europe, when he went veggie.   So it's even worse.  He became a vegetarian roughly at the time he became a TOTAL monster. 

I have a gig that involves listening to interviews with Australians about their (pretty great) social services. One interview was with a 70-something mother to an adult son with Down syndrome. He was doing great. He lived in a state-run facility that offered him excellent care. He had friends and as much independence as he could handle. Mom was happy, and his life was going well. Toward the end of the interview, the mother was asked what would happen to her son after she died. She broke down immediately and completely. When she had composed herself a bit, she explained that she prayed every day, several times, that her son would die before she did. The thought of leaving her son adrift in the world, without the only people who truly loved him, shattered her. It was a horror to her, despite the good circumstances into which she would be leaving him. This was a normal, kind, religious woman -- she wasn't callous or confused. The prospect was just that terrible. I'd press my wife to abort.

I'm glad you put it the way you did, at the end.  Because that is all you can do. 

I did not have a dog until I was almost 50. I did not 'get' dogs, and I even was a little irritated by the fact that dog owners love to use my last name as a dog name. (Dog owners like you, for example.) Now I have a dog, and my heart is glad that my clan is honored by dog owners by giving its name to canines.

I have said this before, probably several times, but my daughter Molly was named after a Labrador retriever. 

According to this, Trump is privately calling Stormy Daniels' attacks a "hoax". I am certain they had an affair and that he knew about the payoff. So why is he lying about it in private? Is he trying to deceive his closest advisors (who surely must know the truth). Has he convinced himself it never happened?

I am convinced Trump is such a promiscuous liar he forgets what is true and what is not.  

George Allen, a Republican for whom I possibly could have considered voting had he run against HRC, ended his career by using a nickname he (allegedly) didn't know was racially derogatory. As my super-sensitive teenage goddaughter says "Words hurt."

The word was macaca and I think he kndw what it meant.  He'd heard it used when he was a kid, and understood the context.   Am I wrong?

the joke rated the worst (dying like camping) sounds entirely like a Rodney Dangerfield one-liner. It got a modest chuckle from me. (And now I'm trying to remember your judgement on Rodney, because neither of you get any respect.. )

I revered Rodney.  My conversation with him is online somewhere and he was spectacular. 

I don't know who the best investigative reporter is for this, but hey, it's Tuesday. Did anyone wander down to the Mall on Saturday to determine who the super-secret educational group was who reserved the Mall for a table and a couple of chairs, thus squeezing everyone into Penn. Ave? I can't find the answer in the local newspaper.

Does anyone know the answer to this? 

Here is the beekeeper joke, in context.  Search for beekeeper.  

Missed the update discussion on chicken fingers. Remember this from the 80s?

I don't remember this, but it's good.  Good acting.  

"Porn star with moxie" falls a syllable short, Gene.

True.   I just adopted it, but I shouldn't have. 

Some people actually care about this a great deal-- Louboutin shoe's are famous for their red soles. From the designer: “My sketches were not reproduced exactly as I had designed them and I couldn’t figure out why. The two dimensional sketch was so powerful on paper, but when turned into a three-dimensional object, it was somehow lacking energy. Frustrated after having tried different things to liven up the design, I spontaneously grabbed my assistant’s red nail polish and painted the sole. I instantly knew that this would be a success!”.

Eh. 

I am roughly the same age as George Allen, and the same class. I'd never heard the word until he uttered it and the kerfuffle began.

he'd heard it at home from his ma, if I remember it correctly.  It's a play on Macaque.   

I've noticed a number of postings in the past couple of weeks that accuser you of becoming a weepy old man. They don't know you. You have not become a weepty old man. You're a train. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvCqX1eFXDw

Thanks.  I am now background listening to this. 

My biggest peeve with Will is his ostentatious love of baseball. As if that in any way diminishes the Little Lord Fauntleroy-ness of his world view. I do still get a chuckle out of National Lampoon's lampoon of the late and unlamented Newsweek. Will's parody (?) column was titled "Why I Love the Feudal System".

I often disagree with Will, but he has shown real character in taking on Trump the way he has.   And he is undeniably an elegant writer. 

Dylan's harp on this song is wonderful. 

Well, yeah. Whether you realize it or not, you basically called them stupid for being passionate about something that you find silly. If you spent any time among the more dorky set, you'd be well acquainted with the concept of Nerd-Rage. Basically, if its small and insignificant, there's someone who will defend their love of it passionately and angrily against all attacks and slights.

Well, I am being an outrageous elitist. 

How long until we have "safe places" readers or "trigger warning" readers? Mark me down as not a fan. I don't want writing that seeks to not offend. Go ahead and offend me, just make it interesting.

I think the theory is that, assuming you are privileged, you are not likely to be the one offended.   It is an unequal threat. 

Thank you. I'm getting irritated at the number of documentaries where the narrator employs the historical present.

It seems mannered to me.  I always advise young writers not to do it. 

Oh, man.   Train just segued into "Queen Jane Approximately."   

Are you going to the Nationals' home opener next week?

Probably not. Don't have tix. 

it's actually the genus of a species of old world monkeys, in addition to it's obscure use by the Allen family.

yes, exactly. 

not the Humane Society. I was there. They did you a disservice because it was a walk around event not a sit down affair. However, my wife and I did listen and we still refer that spot on top of a dog's head as the knuckle. I said "hi" to you afterwards.

Right!  Thank you.  Apologies to the Humane Society. 

 

The other thing about that appearance is that I had had double knee replacement just a few weeks before.  Then had to climb onto a stage. 

Is it wrong of me to be pissed off at people like Will, and Jennifer Rubin, and Michael Gerson, to be suddenly garnering praise because they've seen the light but refuse to acknowledge that they helped, eagerly and willingly, to bring about the present disgusting state of affairs?

I think that's unfair.   They opposed Trump from the beginning.  If you accuse them of creating the toxic partisan  atmosphere that spawned Trump, you could also accuse the lefties, you know?

Okay, we're done.  Have some more Dylan to listen to.   Thank you all.   We'll talk next week. 

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

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

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

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