Tuesdays with Moron: Chatological Humor Update

Jul 05, 2011

Every Tuesday, Gene publishes weekly updates to his chats.

Gene's most recent chat: June 28

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

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

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

New to Chatological Humor? Read the FAQ.

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

We begin today with a very odd freebie offer.    It's designed to save a life!   In a small way!

The Rib just stopped smoking cigarettes after too many years.    She has a cache of pretty expensive anti-smoking aids left:  Nicotine patches and nicotine gum.    They're worth maybe $60.

They go out free to anyone who really wants and needs them.   Email me at weingarten@washpost.com.    Best plaint received today gets it.  

Hi Gene, Did you hear about this guy peeping in portapotties? Big news here in Colorado!

Okay, this is so... strange.    There are many elements to this story, beyond a man who hides in porta-potties.   And drills peep holes in bathrooms, and runs away covered in feces.    It's a story about a voyeur, in a paper called The Camera.   It's about pee, and the author is named "Urie."    It's about the oiliest, ooziest, sleaziest man in the world, and his name is... "Chrisco."

I really want to know more about why the Post didn't publish the piece. I find it rather compelling and relatable. However, I have a fear that inaccuracies in his story will be exposed and he won't be the poster boy for immigration reform that he seems to be right now.

The Post is not saying why they withheld the story, and they have no obligation to explain.   But I can posit a guess, one that is defensible.

This was a story that was entirely personal, based largely on assertions about Vargas's life that are impossible to independently confirm.    In such a story, you are at the mercy of the honesty of the writer; the credibility of your news organization hinges on that.

The Post did say that in the course of the editing, they discovered Vargas had withheld a key fact -- that he had deliberately falsified a drivers license, a fact that criminalized his behavior in a particularly unambiguous way.   When confronted with this, he told his editors that he had withheld this "on the advice of his lawyers."

This is not the sort situation you want when editing a story of this nature.    You don't want to have to pry information out of the writer, because then you worry about what else he isn't telling you.   As an editor, I more than once killed a first-person story because I realized I just didn't trust the writer enough.

If that was Marcus Brauchli's reason here, I respect it.

There's a second possibility (I am merely speculating here.)  It's that Brauchli decided that The Post was ethically compromised in this story -- that we couldn't tell it entirely objectively because we were a player.   Part of the story, inevitably, involved whether to judge The Post on its actions here.  

It could be another reason, too,  but these are the two most likely.    I am sure that whatever the reason, it was principled.   This was a compelling story, not one to be lightly surrendered to your arch competitor.

No person owning, keeping, or having custody of a dog in the District shall permit the dog to go on private property without the consent of the owner or occupant of the property. By allowing your dog onto somebody's property to defecate, you are breaking the law. Publishing photos of yourself breaking the law is silly.

Gad, some people are self-righteous.

Murphy was not pooping on private property.   That was a swale, a strip between the sidewalk and the street.   Anyone placing a "no dogs" sign there is the one breaking the law -- asserting ownership or stewardship over public property. 

This explains a lot. Although Joel's writing has improved in recent years, I couldn't stand him at first, because his style was more Gee-Whiz than concerned with actual facts. I considered him part of the "branding" problem, trying to make interesting scientific facts cool, or hip, or something. As I said, he's gotten better. Which end of his career do you claim credit for?

Before you began reading him, in all likelihood.   This was Joel's first story for me, in Tropic magazine of The Miami Herald.    He was 23.   I was 32.   We were both learning. 

He had an amazingly strong voice for his age.   Remarkable control.   Though, possibly, I added some of the control.  But not the voice.

Is everyone and their grandmother going to comment about the collar you have on your dog in the pictures? My dog wears a choke collar and people roll their eyes at me, I can only imagine what people say about the pinch collar your dog is wearing in the pictures.

I've gotten a couple of comments!   Listen, Murphy is a Plott hound, a ridiculously willful breed.   Even at 5 years old (her birthday's next week, and it will be celebrated) she is still a total asshat on walks, unless there is something to remind her not to pull like a mule team.   

It's just a reminder.    Ergo, she never pulls.   Ergo, she's never hurt.   

I will stake the quality of my dog's life against the quality of  any other dog's life, anywhere.   She is happy, healthy, loved, and loving.   She gets wild runs in a 60-acre dog park four times a week.   You want to demonize me for the pinch collar?  Have at it.

Leslie Nielsen's epitaph is a fart joke. What joke do you plan on using for your own tombstone?

I have writ this before, and I mean it, and it is also oddly appropriate to this particular chat.   I will be buried in Congressional Cemetery, which allows dogs to run free.  (That's Murphy's 60-acre "dog park."    My tombstone will be in the shape of a fire hydrant.  

But I count up. My youngest son was evaluated for obsessive-compulsive behavior (I don't think it's a disorder unless it takes over your life) and the doctor asked if he counts things. I said "I do." My wife said "what do you count?" and I said "whatever needs counting."

I can and hereby must report that it takes exactly 8 and a half "glugs" to empty a beer bottle into a glass, when bottle is held at a 45 degree angle.

I am not sure where the problem with your response to Branding would be. Perhaps my inability is because I am very close in age to you - probably a couple of years older than you - so we look back and "see" the same history. I'm moving into Old Fart mode, here, but I think this child is so young that she believes that what is today is what has always been. (Did a Lewis Carroll character say that better?) I don't know how to cure that. I know that respect for perspective is required, but I also know that only I am amused to remember the 60s, when we were sure that we had invented sex. I don't remember whether we tried to brand it.

You mean we DIDN'T Invent sex?

Actually, in the 60s I didn't so much think that we had invented sex, I thought we had invented FUN and ADVENTUROUS sex.   I rememember thinking specifically that no one in my parents' generation had ever gone down on a woman.

... if you used that line today? Would you even have gotten the interview? Do those jobs even exist?

This is in reference to telling my first prospective employer that I wanted to be his city hall reporter because I wanted to put the editor in jail.

I think today that would be seen as a huge, flapping red flag, even by me.    I'd be impressed with the passion but ask a series of questions designed to determine just how reckless this person might be.    I'd need to hear something volunteered about fairness, accuracy and restraint.    

It seems to me this column is one woman's announcement to the world that she lacks a sense of humor. Or am I just insensitive because I don't have kids?

Yes.   This is not a lady I would want to spend a lot of time around.

Before you came to the Post, user-generated content amounted to a few select Letters to the Editor. Suddenly we had The Style Invitational, The Ear No One Reads, user-edited horoscopes. God knows what else Bradlee wouldn't let you get away with. You set the standard early on for live chats. Let's set the credit/blame for user-generated content where credit/blame is due.

Guilty.   The difference is, this is heavily edited user generated content.

The best user-generated idea I ever had was around the turn of the millennium, when I was editing the Millennium Edition of the Post.   I woke up at 4 am one day, staggered to the mirror in my bathroom, and wrote with a bar of soap:  1 hnd lf strs.   

It took me four days to decipher it.    One hundred life stories.      I invited readers to summarize their lives in 100 words or fewer; we got thousands of entries and I chose 100.    We ran them as something of a time capsule, a snapshot of who we were, as a people at the turn of the millennium.

If you pull up this url, you will get the first, by Raymond Roske.   Then keep adding one to the final number of the url until you get all 100.   I am enormously proud of these, and of our readers.   And if you start now, you won't get back to this chat until it is done.

This is your theory, illustrated, isn't it?

It is, and well done, except the father in the last panel should just be saying "-a-boo."   The rest should have been in the baby's mind after the terror of the "peek."

Here is how we did it in Barney & Clyde last year.

Just read her column about her TSA search and I'm wondering what kind of pants she was wearing? Any pants I'm wearing with underpants underneath them would not allow anyone to stick their "hand INTO my vagina, through my pants". At least not any pants I would wear in public and it still have to be commando. Sheesh.

Oh, that whole post was completely hysterical, and I do not mean that in a complimentary way.   She was a screaming meemie. 

What a treat it is when you write about our profession and its glory days. Like so many journalists, I have to confess to having gone to the dark side (except the good side of the dark side, working for a non-profit), but I am a newspaper journalist down to my bones. Ink in the blood, as they say, coming from a family of journalists. (In fact, my dad was the editor in Boulder when Janet was publisher there, and he loved working for her.) The newsroom culture is sacred to those of us who have lived it and loved it. When you write about, I can see it and hear it and smell it and feel it in ways that I know non-journalists can't, and that makes me feel like I'm still part of a special club. Maybe one day you'll write a memoir about it all. If so, I hope you'll sign my copy of it.

Want some more tears? 

This is in reference to my mention of Janet Chusmir, my editor in Miami, who fought hard against the bean counters, to great personal stress, and died of a cerebral hemorrhage at 60.  I loved her.  

 Here's a clip of Janet shortly before her death, talking about women in the newsroom.  

 Now we're done for the week.   Please submit questions for the next full chat here.

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