Tuesdays with Moron: Chatological Humor Update

Feb 21, 2012

Every Tuesday, Gene publishes weekly updates to his chats.

Gene's latest chat.

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.

Greetings update readers!

When I posted on Twitter yesterday my sudden, slap-to-the forehead realization that “utopian” rhymes with “fallopian,” someone informed me there were other “fallopian” rhymes out there, and challenged me to put some into a limerick.   This I did.   Here it is:.


There once was a West Ethiopian

Whose sex dreams were most cornucopian.

They were graphic and literal

Disturbingly clitoral

And twisted, like a torsioned fallopian.


By the time I was finished, another Twitterer introduced me to the work of one MC Paul Barman, a white Jewish rapper from New Jersey whose oeuvre lies somewhere between hip hop and a hip-hop parody, which is a neat trick, since hip hop is already part parody.    Anyway, it turns out my limerick was treading on ground already better trod.   Here is a link to the lyrics of one of MC Paul's raps, the title of which is hilarious but I probably shouldn’t write here.    WARNING:  This is both funny and suggestive to the point of filthy.   The easily offended should not click here.

(Sample lyric: “I’m immersed in Kirstie Allie’s thirsty valley.”)

I would now like to thank the kind people of Moldova, Japan, The Seychelles, Sweden, India, Peru, Portugal, Russia, Ecuador, South Korea, Germany and South Africa who wrote to me in the last two weeks to thank me for my recent, brilliant story about how Joshua Bell played unnoticed in the Washington metro at rush hour.    Likewise, thanks to dozens of others in almost every state and U.S. territory, including Guam, who also wrote.    Thank you all for your feelings that this story should be recognized with a prize of some sort.

In the last three weeks or so, the general facts of my 2007 feature story on Joshua Bell in the subway have gone internationally viral.  The mechanics of how this has happened, or why it has just happened,  are not entirely clear, though Facebook appears to have been the main instrument.   The whole thing proves something of a cautionary tale about the powers of the Internet, but also of its sometimes lamentable limitations.

As it now stands, the vast majority of people on Earth who have heard of this experiment (this group now appears to be every adult in the world except, perhaps, for Bedouins)  have not actually read my story.  They do not know it is five years old.     What they have read is an authorless, timeless, completely inept and staggeringly inaccurate 400-word piece of sugary pap, a supposed summary of what my 9,000-word story allegedly said.   Regrettably, in some versions I am credited by name, leaving the impression that I wrote the cloying bolus of ignorant offal.  (I feel like a bound and gagged Enrico Pallazzo watching Frank Drebbin butcher the National Anthem in his name.)  It has been circulating in this general form nonstop for five years – I get an email or two a day about it – until this recent hemorrhage.    Because of the nature of how thinly this is presented, I do also occasionally get justifiably pilloried by smart people, such as Andrew MacG Marshall, who goes by “Zen journalist” on Twitter.    He wrote:  “I need to vent.  The viral FB post about nobody noticing a famous violinist busking at a metro station is smug, retarded rubbish.  … Thank you.”

 Yes.  Yes, Andrew, it is.

He goes on and on in his Facebook discussion, concluding: “If I ever see Joshua Bell busking in a station, I am going to walk up and kick him smartly in the balls. It's the least he deserves for taking part in such a witless "experiment.”

In the ensuing thread, many of his friends chimed in – some complimentary, some denunciatory;  a debate ensued as to whether this event happened just yesterday or as long as seven weeks ago, etc. 

So, I will now re-publish this viral turd yet one more time, for the purpose of dismantling it, once and for all.  


Here it is:

The Disgusting Turd:


"This is so awesome!  Please take a moment to read!    A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by, and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace, and stopped for a few seconds, and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping, and continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried, but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally, the mother pushed hard, and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money, but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the most talented musicians in the world. He had just played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, on a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste, and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?"

The Evisceration of the Turd


Joshua Bell didn’t sit, he stood.    He wasn’t in the station, he was outside the station.  He played two Bach pieces, not six. (And it wasn’t only Bach: He also played Schubert, Ponce, and Massenet.)    “Thousands” of people did not pass by; it was just over 1,000.     The middle-aged man didn’t stop for a few seconds; he just turned a little, then kept walking.    The man who leaned against the wall didn’t look at his watch, see he was late for work, and leave.   The man who leaned against the wall was Bell’s first appreciative spectator, John David Mortensen.  He staying for three full minutes, then gave Bell $5.   The child was not the one who paid the most attention, not by a long shot: One man, John Picarello, stayed a full nine minutes in rapt adoration.   Seven people, not six, stopped for at least a minute.   Bell had been in Boston three days before this event, not two.    At the very end, he actually did get applause, from Stacy Furukawa, the one person who had recognized him.

Of the 400 words in this “summary,” about 190 are in the direct service of an error in fact.

The biggest problem here is that the original story was about nuance, and nuance was lost to the anonymous author, whom we shall call the butcher of Bell sin.    So the Zen journalist was not entirely wrong when he argued that you can’t condemn people for being unsophisticated doofs if you conduct the experiment at rush hour, when they are … rushed.    The full story agreed with that point.   It drew exactly that conclusion, channeling Immanuel Kant to do so.    The story was ultimately about priorities and the pace of our lives, not about aesthetics and sophistication.

But no one knows that, now. 

At first I figured it’s a lose-win situation for me.   Surely, I reasoned, there’d be a spike in sales of my book, whose title, “The Fiddler In The Subway” would bring in some buyers off the vastness of the Web.  But, no, sales have remained steady and modest.   I finally realized why:  Everyone already KNOWS the story.  Right? 

More toilet seat news!


As you are probably aware from my column on Sunday, I am auctioning off my autographed toilet seat, on Ebay.  Proceeds to charity.   I am delighted to report that with a little over a day left in the auction, there have already been 40 bids, and the price is up to $150.    Are you going to let some doof steal this thing that is rightfully yours?

And Finally


Finally, I will answer a few left-over questions.    Please make sure to join us next week for the regular chat.  The introduction will be something my editors decided was too tasteless to put in my column.  If you can imagine.

Crap. I'm a woman and NEVER EVER THOUGHT ABOUT THAT. I'm already a "hoverer" in public restrooms (and proud and flexible foot flusher), thank goodness, and now I will be FOREVER, especially in unisex ones like they have in gas stations. Thanks for the horrifying visual, Gene.

Ideally, there is no touchage, but we'd be liars if we say it never happens.    

I think I would have been more forgiving if he'd had a mistress who was old enough to know what the real world is like. I can't remember who said it, but it was along the lines of "having an affair with that poor woman? - it must have been like shooting fish in a barrel."

I hear you.  Reading the Starr Report -- which I do think was a loathsome political hatchet job, and VERY funny -- Monica comes off as a pretty naive 23-year-old.   It's hard to argue, though, that she was taken advantage of.  Clinton was supplying her something of tangible value -- access to superstardom; private bragging rights, etc. -- (and she was returning the favor.)   He was a cad, no doubt.  But to me, she was far less victimized by Clinton than by her "friend," Linda Tripp.   

So, you have missed ALL of the news stories lately about women (usually teachers) having sex with their 13 and 14 year old students or friends of their kids?

I've seen em.   But that's not child molestation of the sort one is concerned with in babysitters.  That's ephebophilia, not pedophilia.   I'm talking about who is likely to molest a three or six year old -- and that's almost exclusively male. 

I totally want to be set up with this man. I'm a soon-to-be 30-year-old virgin female, and while I've had the opportunity, I feel like I've missed the window on when the awkwardness was okay.

Write in to me at weingarten@washpost.com.   I will keep your identity a secret, and try to be matchmaker.   

Gene: Unfortunatley, you're in the wrong on 2 counts. Current DC law states that a car cannot occupy any space for over 72 hours, meaning you need to move your car at least once every 3 days, or else risk a ticket.

Likewise, DC law says that non-emergency "No Parking" notice signs must go up at least 72 hours prior to the event requiring the parking ban. Notwithstanding that in your case it was an emergency "No Parking" issue, meaning you're screwed, even in the event of non-emergency "No Parking Notices," the only way to win is to prove that you weren't afforded 72 hours notice. Otherwise, you're admitting to breaking the 3 day rule, and the DMV Hearing Adjudicator isn't going to show you any sympathy.

I think perchance you wish to wait for an upcoming column, one of my favorites.    Then we will discuss this further.  

Fantasizing about being a man doing a chick. Sound familiar? Totally. I thought I was weird. This chat is so awesome.

I'll end with this.  A friend of mine proposed an explanation that sounds plausible to me: Stimulation of the primary male organ in sex is direct; stimulation of the primary female organ (at least during intercourse) is more indirect.  Possibly the ladies who are, near the culmination of the act, fantasizing having a penis are basically helping themselves envision a more direct stimulus.  

Here's the question to these ladies for the next chat:  Does the same thing happen during self-pleasure?  If not, we may well have an explanation. 

Okay, thanks.  We chat for real next week with a very edgy introduction! 

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.
Recent Chats
  • Next: