Tuesdays with Moron: Chatological Humor Update

Jun 18, 2013

Every Tuesday, Gene publishes weekly updates to his chats.

- Gene's LAST monthly chat

- Submit your questions to Gene's NEXT monthly chat here. It is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, June 25 at noon. If you submitted a question for today's update, there is no need to resubmit. Thank you.

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.

I am in possession of this correspondence from someone known to me but who wishes to remain anonymous. It is an interesting issue that perhaps we can discuss for our next regularly scheduled chat.

Some time ago, the secretary of a certain large federal department organized a small task force to pro-actively deal with issues and complaints that workers in that dept. might have had. One of the complaints that came in from a fair number of women protested that the gaps in the doors of the bathroom stalls were “too wide,” and that “you could see into” the stalls. (The gaps, which were also in the stall doors in the men’s bathrooms, were/are about a quarter to a half inch wide, maybe even less.) Someone raised this complaint with the task force, which duly investigated and did whatever task forces do, and now metal strips are being installed on the doors of the women’s bathrooms to block this – I don’t know what to call it: Peeking? Seeing?

As a guy, I know this would never happen (any guy caring about it, much less filing a formal complaint with whomever) in about ten thousand years. And yet women seem to feel rather strongly enough about it, and the task force took it seriously.

So there you are: food for discussion in your next chat. Do women “peek” at other women through the cracks? Do women often feel “peeked upon”? Am I right that this is a women-only issue?


I can attest to the fact that many women are horrified to learn that at certain venues (sports stadia in particular) men pee into a great big long trough or bathtub, standing next to each other, with no "little privacy screens" or whatnot.


On to your questions:

"Blondie never faces the reader so the reader can't look up her skirt. " My reaction: Ppphh. Really? Put legs behind TV- put them both sideways, etc.

Uh.  It is possible someone is irony deficient here. 

Gene--please reconsider your abstention of comments on comic strips since you began your strip. I'm sure I'm not the only one who misses them. I'd like to know what you think of "Reply All," how "Red and Rover" can be up for best strip of the year, etc. I assume you haven't given up pooping so as to continue it as a topic in this Q and A, so no need to abstain from comics commentary--we know where you're coming from.

I have to use judgment.  For example, "Reply All" is syndicated, and edited, by the same syndicator and editor that "Barney & Clyde" is.  I am therefore biased, by definition, and dasn't speak.  "Red and Rover" USED to be with the same syndicate, but isn't anymore, so I am allowed to say I find it pablum.  

Is this an appropriate sexual assault joke? A sexual assault officer has been charged with sexual assault. As least he stayed within his field.

No, it is not appropriate because the very first rule of edgy humor is that it must be funny.   As I have said before, tastelessness in the honest pursuit of humor is no vice.  But tastelessness in the dishonest pursuit of humor is.

I was just discussing a related matter with Manteuffel the other day.  She is not a big fan of Bill Hicks; she finds him mean-spirited.  She thinks his sexist jokes betray a disrespect for women, his redneck jokes seriously disparage rurals, whereas others who traffic in same are  making jokes about the absurdity of stereotype.    I understand this; Hicks IS mean-spirited; I just give him a pass on that, and she doesn't.   I asked her to watch this, by Jimmy Carr, (NSFW) and tell me if she was offended by it.  She wasn't at all.   She loved it.   Now, I contend that if Hicks had performed the identical material, she would have been grossed out.   And I think she's right!

She says, for the record, that Hicks wouldn't have told these jokes these way; he would have told them in a more hostile, less absurdist way.

Do questions on updates actually go anywhere?

Yes. They go to the next full chat.

I figure you're kind of a dog expert, and I'm too lazy to find an actual expert, so I'm asking you this question. My dog has the odd habit of always exiting the door to go potty from my left side. This is true even if I'm standing to the left of the door opening and he is coming from the right. He won't simply go in between me (on my right side) and the door through the opening. He insists on crossing behind me, turning at my left side and crossing in front of me to go through the entrance. Every time. Is this a dominance thing, or is my dog just OCD?

Your dog is a dog.

Here is another dog.

is the number of studies proving that people constantly assume that they are less impaired than they actually are.

And what we have here is a column of mine that asks and eloquently answers this very question.   Okay, maybe not THAT eloquently.  I'd had a snootful.

Does not pass the smell test. If I can smell deception, and I'm not an editor, what does that say for the skill of the Times' editors?

This is the almost-crash story.

Since I first wrote about my suspicions, the case has been made more elaborately by James Fallows of The Atlantic.  The number of corners cut, and fabrications tailored, in that story, is awful.   Latest fact: the whole flight lasted 42 minutes.  In other words, 2 hours circling Philly was nonsense.

I don't blame the writer for this (he's not a pro and had no idea what a feature story must be) so much as the Times editors.  Their dereliction of duty was shocking, mosly because they clearly didn't want to interrogate too closesly a story that interesting. Shame on them.

No one is suggesting that. We all KNOW that you carefully research your articles, and that your shorter columns, particularly those involving phone calls in which you play the idiot and torment some self-important Washington or corporate tool (or some defenseless hourly employee at a call center) with your silly questions, are absolutely accurate.

I sense sarcasm, so am not sure I get your point; but yes, MY point is that there is this reservoir of trust that all feature writers and columnists dip into.  When one of us is caught in a lie, even a small one, it pollutes the pool.  People are more likely to question all of us.    My customer service calls are all heavily edited: A lot of extraneous and / or unfunny stuff is culled, but what I say happened actualy happened.

What if you approached those columns assuming they were largely made up or embellished?  Wouldn't that make even the funniest ones seem less funny?

Gene... did you see this?  Brad Pitt apparently also suffers from face blindness, as do I. Your column a few years back about it lifted my spirits -- finding out that someone as intelligent as you had the same problem I do. I noted that you also mentioned in your piece about your neighbor last week how it was difficult to identify an Eastern Market vendor out of context. I have that problem all the time. Sometimes even in context, as in going to the nail salon, staffed by pretty young Asian women, and fearing that I won't recognize the one who does my nails each time. I can just hear someone saying, "Oh you think we all look alike, don't you?" I have friends you say they NEVER forget a face. What a gift!

The gift, together with an uncanny memory for names,  shows up in a lot of people who go into politics.    In my first newspaper job -- in Albany NY -- the district attorney was a Republican named Arnold Proskin.  When he was campaigning, Arnold would stand outside  a supermarket and greet people going in.   He was typically alone, no aides, no notepad or anything.   When they left a half hour later, he always remembered their names.  I was in awe.  Think about how that would affect you as a voter: He actually KNOWS me.

Hi, Gene, I manage a small department and one person that works for me has a lot of spelling and grammar problems when writing emails. He is a client service representative and does an outstanding job with the customers, handles all their issues, is a creative problem solver and presents and speaks very well. But when it comes to emails, his output is atrocious. Obviously, spell check is not an issue, but Word and email do not check grammar thoroughly enough. For example, he will say, "please complete there form" instead of "their." "Let me know if you except the offer" instead of accept. Do you have any suggestions on how I can help him? I don't have time to tutor him in basic English grammar and I hesitate to get him a book like English Grammar for Dummies because I don't want to offend him. I really don't know if his problem is learning disability related or if he slept through English class or what. Upper Management has been scrutinizing his work and I fear that he will lose his job by not projecting a professional image. Other than this, he does a wonderful job, his accounts love him and are very happy with the level of service he provides. Any ideas? Thanks.

This is a homophone problem, and a lot of intelligent people have it, especially in middle age and later.   Pat The Perfect, among the most literate people I have ever known, will, when rushing, write whose instead of who's and so forth.  Me, too, actually.   So it's a tendency.  

This guy is obviously a serious case, and while Pat or I would never do this when working (we KNOW what's right) your guy obviously does.    I think this is almost impossible to fix, except to show him what he is doing and urge him to be extra careful.  To take a hole lot more care, in other words. 

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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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