Tuesdays with Moron: Chatological Humor Update

Oct 23, 2012

Every Tuesday, Gene publishes weekly updates to his chats.

- Gene's latest chat
- Gene's next 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.

Greetings, update readers.

Two quick observations from the debate:
"Horses and bayonets" was as good a debate line, and as withering a putdown, as any I have seen since "You're no Jack Kennedy."  Basically, a knockdown punch.  Plus-two on the scoring sheet.   "We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them."   Haha.  "We have these ships that go under the water, nuclear submarines." Man.  Devastating.  Angry.  Mean.  Dismissive.  Wonderful.
This actually bears a resemblance to the "Jack Kennedy" line in that each zinger is an example of great debate prep.   In each case, handlers focused on things the opponent had said before, in case it would come up again.   Quayle had made the JFK comparison in prior appearances; Romney had cited his bogus "ships" fact. 


I'm trying to figure out why Obama didn't jump on Romney's idiot comment about Syria being Iran's route to the sea, which, as you can see, is wrong on so many, many levels.   Link

My guess?  Obama wasn't 100 percent sure enough to call him on it.  He was, like, 88 percent sure, but the risk of incorrectly correcting Romney was too great.  
Romney's mistake on this was trivial, in a sense, compared to Ford's monstrous gaffe on the Soviet Union's sphere of influence over Eastern Europe.   Here's the clip on that:  Link

What I love, as I've said before, is how Max Frankel of the NYT gives Ford a chance to pull his foot out.   But nope.  

At least Romney didn't mention "His Holiness, the Pope."

We will now answer  a biting question.    To ask it, I have just removed my jeans.   I am sitting here only in undies.  Writing to you.   So, what are you wearing?

Okay, no.  I actually have a point here, though I am pantsless.    On my thigh, just above the knee, just under where the pants ordinarily press tight to the leg, is a mosquito bite.  It is big and ugly and itchy and very fresh:  No more than five minutes old.   The question is, how did it get there?

Did a mosquito bite me through my jeans?    Did a mosquito somehow get UNDER my jeans?

I'll give you a second to decide on an answer. 

The correct answer is yes, no.   Mosquitoes can sting through jeans.  

This photo will help you understand how.

Up close and small, even denim is porous.   The mosquito proboscis is not very stiff, but very, very narrow.  The insect will work it through the weave.  

So now you know.  

Yesterday, anticipating a close presidential vote, I asked a question on Twitter, and got the answer.  It's interesting.   The question was: Why do we have an even number of electoral votes in America?  There are 538.   This means that it is theoretically possible for a tie in the electoral college, resulting in the sort of hyper-politicized spectacle that torpedoes democracy in ways we never want to see.   Wouldn't it be far wiser to slightly alter the number of people per congressional district so as to either increase or decrease the number of electoral votes by one?

Here's the answer:

There must be 100 electoral votes in the Senate, of course, since there are two senators per state.    There must be an odd number of electoral votes in the House, to avoid tie votes in that body.  So, theoretically, adding them together, there SHOULD be an odd number of electoral votes!  And there were!  For years and years, until the 23rd amendment passed in 1964 and D.C. residents got to vote for president.   
We had to have three electoral votes, since we are slightly more populous than Wyoming, which has three (two for its two senators, and one for its one congressional district.)   I have a separate question on why people who live in Wyoming should have so much more per-capita clout in government than people who live in California, but that's another issue altogether.

The three D.C. votes added to the total, increasing electoral votes from an odd number -- 535 -- to an even number, 538.   (Since we don't have a true vote in congress, this didn't affect the total number of congressmen, meaning The House still has its odd-number, tie-proof majority.)
The most recent effort to give Democratic D.C. full voting rights in the House would have also given an extra congressperson to Republican Utah, meaning there'd be a net increase of two congressmen, meaning the House would STILL have had an odd number of members.

The other day I was walking Murphy near my home in Capitol Hill when a man on a pogo stick bounced by.   Murphy gave him a piece of her mind, because, in Murphy's world, some things are Just Not Done, one of them being boinging down the block really loudly.    But then something even more amazing happened.   Beside us, in small urban park, people were behaving VERY VERY weirdly.    They were dressed oddly -- Murphy is accustomed to jeans and t-shirts and such -- and sitting in CHAIRS in the MIDDLE OF HER PARK, WHICH WAS VERY WEIRD BECAUSE THERE ARE NEVER CHAIRS IN HER PARK -- and kissing!  And hugging!  And saying things loud.   

So Murphy roooooooooed at them, in her hound-like way, but they wouldn't stop Being Bad until finally the Flower Girl game over and petted her and everything was fine and her mom and dad took a picture.  

The flower girl is Ms. Claire Adams, at the Turtle Park wedding of Annie Wellenstein and Rob McLean. 

The Zombie Dog is Murphy.


Murphy and the flower girl

I don't get why athletes using steroids is illegal. I can see why people wouldn't want people to use steroids - they just aren't good for the body in the long run when used as an enhancer. But an athlete that uses this type of chemical enhancement knows that what he/she is doing is not good for his/her body and does it anyway. If Berney Baseballer decides that he needs steroids to increase his batting average, in what way does this hurt the other team? Had Berney Baseballer done extra situps/pullups/jogging or whatever training to do the same thing - there would be no difference to those on his team or on the opposing team. Gives him an edge? So does the extra mile that Johnnie Baseballer runs each day. So does the extra heavy bat Coronado Baseballer uses during practice. It doesn't give them an edge any more than anything else an athlete might do to be the best. And to deny someone their tropies/wins/records because they used something to their advantage is absolutely petty and piss-poor sportsmanship. The people who lost, still lost. The people who came in second still came in second. And now I hear that Nike has dropped Lance Armstrong. And the point would be? If they were ashamed of his alleged use of steroids, shouldn't they have dropped him way back when? Now is a bit late isn't it? Not sending any message to me other than Nike is run by wishy-washy money grubbers. I don't even LIKE most sports. I've never watched the Tour de France. I just don't get why people get so aggravated by the steroids. Can you explain?


I'll try to explain by analogy. 

Let's say there was a drug that could vastly improve your performance athletically but that assured you would be dead by 45.      Do you think some 18 years old athletes would choose that -- riches, fame, women, etc. --  rather than a life of anonymous drugdery at menial jobs, if that is what they are otherwise qualified for?     I really do think many would make that choice.    And they'd crowd out more talented athletes who do not make that choice.   Sport would be relegated to a contest between juiced suicidal hedonists.   The ones who make it without the juice will be embittered super-athletes never achieving the stardom they deserve because they were unwilling to bargain with the devil. 

This is a system you want?   

Because that's basically what steroids are all about, on a somewhat less dramatic scale.   




Gene, I'm curious--being a humorist, would you say that you are more likely than most to always be in a good mood (i.e. optimistic), or have very few "yuk" days? Or is the opposite true? I'm assuming that also being human, you do have bad days periodically--so are you able to easily get yourself out of the bad mood? (Me, I'm trying to reconcile why, as a person who others would say I have a good sense of humor, that I am no longer as optimistic as I used to be, or, that I have a more difficult time pulling myself out of a bad mood. But maybe that's age talking, nothing else!)

I get depressed and upset same as most people, but I do have one advantage.   I'm always trying to see the funny in what happens to me, so as to mine from it column material.   I'm more inclined, therefore, to see an upside in misfortune.   Haha!  I totaled my car!  That's got to be worth a column!  

Have you and your son made enough for you both to retire in luxury yet? The reason I ask is that my daughter wants to start a comic strip so that she and I can be independently wealthy too. She wants to know when to order the third Rolls Royce. I think that Romney won't release his tax forms because he is secretly getting millions from his investments in Mark Trail and Judge Parker. So far, I have not gotten much out of the new comic. Either I just don't get it or the joke is, well, really dull. I want to give him a fair chance. How long should I bother to read it? I gave up on the girls at the office one after 2 months.

You should both keep your day jobs.

Dan and I are making remarkably little on Barney & Clyde, as do most cartoonists who have only moderately successful strips.   It's the terrible secret of comics:  If you are in, say, 30 newspapers, you are only making a total of about $15,000 a year from it.   That's the general, secret formula:  $500 a year per newspaper, on the average.   Now, 30 newspapers -- even mostly little ones -- might combine to a daily circulation of 1.5 million people, which isn't bad -- and people who read comics, read them every day.      So if you are in 30 newspapers, you are pretty famous to a lot of people in certain cities -- Barney & Clyde is well known to folks in Washington, Detroit, Sacramento, etc. -- and they'd be shocked to know that we are paupers, in it mostly for love and giggles. 

The comic strips making a lot of money are in hundreds of papers.  

Some friends and I were talking last week and the discussion led me to think about the eye-rolling I would give my grandfather when he was being a fuddy duddy (my grandmother's word for him). I have no doubt that my grandkids will eye-roll me, but about what? Reading printed anything? Making banana phone jokes?

The greatest generational rejection we are going to see is going to transcend eye-rolling.    The grandchildren of outspoken opponents of gay marriage -- particularly pols who take that position, so are really actors in the bigotry -- are going to be deeply ashamed of grandma and grandpa. 

Sorry to go all serious here, but I feel this profoundly: Anti-gay bigotry is being jettisoned by younger people of all political stripes.    I don't think there are many 25 year old conservatives who feel protective of heterosexual marriage.  They know it's a bull zit issue, because our culture has finally moved into understanding that gays are people, too.   

This is by far the best argument to use on the bigot pols today.   You say:  "Your grandchildren will be ashamed of you," and then when they start to bluster on about threats to society, you hold up your hand and say, "Stop.   I'm not making a political argument here.   Feel as you do.   I am just stating the obvious: Your grandchildren will be ashamed of you." 

You have from time to time mentioned in passing that you had knee replacement surgery which disappointed you. Do you have any advice for those of us who might be facing similar surgery soon?

Do not get both knees done at the same time, as I did.  It is emotionally very difficult -- you will literally fight depression.  At one point, about four days after the operation, I was so exasperated by my inability to move (and resignation that Things Had Gone Wrong) that I almost ripped out my IV tubes.   What saved me was the sudden realization that Crazy People Rip Out Their IV Tubes.   This made me laugh, and I regained perspective.

The main reason not to do two at once is that if the doctor makes an error in judgment, as he did with me, it won't involve both knees.  He'll get the second one right.  Then you can decided whether to go back into the first. 

I know many people who had this surgery and are completely happy with the results.   Don't quail at doing it. 

Here's a more precisely word version: A group of people with assorted eye colors live on an island. They are all perfect logicians -- if a conclusion can be logically deduced, they will do it instantly. No one knows the color of their eyes. Every night at midnight, a ferry stops at the island. Any islanders who have figured out the color of their own eyes then leave the island, and the rest stay. Everyone can see everyone else at all times and keeps a count of the number of people they see with each eye color (excluding themselves), but they cannot otherwise communicate. Everyone on the island knows all the rules in this paragraph. On this island there are 100 blue-eyed people, 100 brown-eyed people, and the Guru (she happens to have green eyes). So any given blue-eyed person can see 100 people with brown eyes and 99 people with blue eyes (and one with green), but that does not tell him his own eye color; as far as he knows the totals could be 101 brown and 99 blue. Or 100 brown, 99 blue, and he could have red eyes. The Guru is allowed to speak once (let's say at noon), on one day in all their endless years on the island. Standing before the islanders, she says the following: "I can see someone who has blue eyes." Who leaves the island, and on what night? There are no mirrors or reflecting surfaces, nothing dumb. It is not a trick question, and the answer is logical. It doesn't depend on tricky wording or anyone lying or guessing, and it doesn't involve people doing something silly like creating a sign language or doing genetics. The Guru is not making eye contact with anyone in particular; she's simply saying "I count at least one blue-eyed person on this island who isn't me." And lastly, the answer is not "no one leaves."

I spent two days thinking about this puzzle, and not getting the answer, and then looking up the answer on the web, and then thinking about it, and still not getting it, because it was expressed mathematically, and it seemed to me, in this case, math fails.   But I finally got it.

Yes, there is an answer, and it is not "no one leaves."  There is no special stupid trick.  It is a logically ingenious puzzle.

 It now falls to me to explain it in English, which will be a challenge.   I will do it in the next full chat. 

And on that note:  We're going to be skipping the full, ordinarily scheduled chat this month, as I finish a cover story.   We'll be keeping you informed of the timing of the next chat, and updates, through The Post, Twitter, and Facebook.

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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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