Tuesdays with Moron: Chatological Humor Update

May 20, 2014

Gene's next monthly chat is Tuesday, May 27 at noon. You may submit questions here.

Although this weekly edition provides an update between live chats, 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.

Sunday, June 1 is the Post Hunt.   My full chat next week will deal with this a bit, because The Hunt has some major differences this year, including one biggie: Someone in your group will need a smartphone with Internet access, and at least one person in your group will need to belong to Twitter; this year we're going to be making announcements via Twitter, maybe giving hints via Twitter if they are needed, etc.   More on this later.   But be forewarned.

And now, Old Questions Answered:

Gene - I'm writing to ask that you consider your repeated usage of the term "sky fairy" when referring to deities. I get that you are an avowed atheist, but many of your readers believe there is some power greater than themselves, whether the Christian God, or any number of gods and goddesses observed by other religions. To use "sky fairy", or any other snarky term, seems needlessly mean-spirited, and I don't think you are a mean-spirited person (except for this). So as a somewhat-believer to a nonbeliever, could you use a less dismissive term -- say "supreme being"? I promise I will continue to find you funny most of the time, but the term you use isn't one of them.

Interesting point, and a good one.  Apologies to those offended.  I used "sky fairy" sort of gratuitously, pointing out that politicians in this country simply cannot admit to being agnostics, and suggested that we've probably had more than one president who pretended to believe in a "sky fairy" in order to remain politically viable.

This wouldn't have been clear from context, and so I totally understand your taking offense, but when I think of that term, I don't mean to apply it to any belief in a deity.  I respect religion, except when is violent or extortionist, or if it is used to justify bigotry, or, to a lesser extent, when practiced in a certain way, one that seems to me to be childish.  That's what we're really talking about here.

Gonna get in some trouble here, and maybe compound the problem I created, but:

If you believe that some sentient presence created humankind, and pray to said presence, and revere said presence, and feel loved by something bigger than you and I, I'm fine with that.  Don't disrespect it at all.  As I've said before, I kind of envy it, even if I can't personally get to that place.  When I talk of a "sky fairy," I am talking about what I see to be an immature belief in God -- absolute biblical literalists, for example, or strict adherents to classic concepts of hell and heaven and Satan and all these things that clearly are mythology -- human constructs to explain the inexplicable and tame our fears and order our morality.  You're entitled to believe what you wish, but I don't want to pretend that I have equal  intellectual respect for that.   Sky fairy. 

I just read the piece on Challenger and saw this: "Some experts in the field say that because it worked for NASA to hang tough, that's the course the space agency will probably follow in the future." I worked on the Columbia "disaster" for FEMA when Columbia burned up in the atmosphere over Texas and NASA behaved in the exact same way. All news was blacked out. There were many rumors about whether the crew cabin had made it earth or not intact but I'm not sure if we ever learned the truth.

If you have time, this is a completely riveting 20 minutes of video at mission control during the final moments of the Columbia.   You watch it slowly, very slowly, dawn on people as it is happening.   But what you need to know, to explain the general tension, is that everyone knew there was a problem that could not be rectified, some missing heat tiles, and basically all fingers were crossed.

The most amazing part is that most people remain close to expressionless.   But the very last minute or so consists entire of CYA behavior: No one make phone calls out of this room, etc.  

At 4:45, having gotten some bad telemetry from tire pressures, we watch the Flight Director ask for some reassurance, and get it, but still look dubious, and then the disaster happens at 5:15.   It takes about another two minutes before faces begin to freeze protectively. 

By 7:05,  it's dawned on them that this looks bad.  They keep calling for a "comcheck" from the capsule -- communications check -- and get an eerie no response.  

Then the flight controller asks someone, "when are you expecting tracking," meaning telemetry from the craft showing it is still up there intact" and the answer is "one minute ago," and everything palpably sinks.

The CYA starts at 16:00

The tragic, moving moment is 18:50, when the director finally puts his head in his hands. 

I have only used Siri once because she returned an offensive response to my innocuous question of, "Siri, with today's weather, do I need a jacket?" She read back to me - and rather loudly, with authority - an interpretation that asked whether or not a friend of mine was a (insert very derogatory word for a homosexual man.) I briefly considered contacting Apple to complain.

Okay, I am confused by this.   How can it be that Siri has inappropriate, even hateful language responses, programmed in?    I hope I am not being trolled, and am accepting your two examples -- this one and the vagina-fish one from the chat -- as being true.  I am not finding on the web other such complaints, though.

Can anyone explain this?

Thanks. I am too scared to look at porn, even for research sake, in case someone would find out! But in my mind's eye (ha ha) the ending was a different act, so now I feel informed.

Here's an interesting epistemological question:

Are you afraid of someone "finding out" you looked at porn, or of getting busted at work because it is forbidden? 

I hope you mean the second, but fear you mean the first !

I can certainly understand not looking at porn because it doesn't interest you, or repels you, or you are politically or morally opposed to it, and certainly because you can get in trouble for looking at it.  I don't really get why somewould would / should be embarrassed to have once looked to see what it was all about.   Maybe that's because I'm a journalist, where we're sort of supposed to know a little about everything and (in general) not make kneejerk moral judgments.

Case in point: The Saddam Hussein hanging.   I didn't particularly want to see it -- watched it wincing -- but felt I sort of had to so I could talk about it knowledgeably.  Same with the Daniel Pearl video.   Which of course led me to ask myself if this was an excuse to satiate some ghoulish voyeurism.   The jury is still out. 

To me, those are more porn than porn is.   I feel more guilt about it.

But being inured to such things  is definitely part of journalism . Many years ago, during down time the copy desk at the Style section had a competition to find the most disgusting thing on the Web in two minutes.  The results were spectacular.


But once a car has pulled up behind you and stopped, you can pull closer to the car in front of you because the car behind you is not going to barrel into. Lastly, when you are in bumper to bumper rush hour traffic, there is no free lane to pull into. Just PULL UP already so more of us can make it through the green light. Sheesh.

Of ALL traffic behavior, nothing bothers me more than the left turner who won't go out into the intersection to wait.  There are apparently people who believe that when they have to make a left turn, everyone behind them has to miss the light.   Isn't that so counterintuitive as to make it totally clear what the proper behavior is?   How can you THINK that?

I would like to hear a timid left turner try to defend this behavior.   Anyone?  I see it all the time.    I honk.  Sorry, but I honk.  I am not a honker, other than in my holy heritage.  But this is one of the few times I will honk.

Speaking of heritage, when I am the honker, you are the honkee.

Maybe not racism per se, but definite exclusionary, us v. them, insider/outsider behavior. At what point does an insular community of the same race/ethnicity become an exclusionary community for other races? I don't know.

But isn't ALL religion exclusionary?  Isn't that sort of the idea of religion?  We've figured out the meaning of life and you alls haven't?   It's too bad.   We still love you and everything, but dang you are misinformed!

We will end on this bit of grumpery.

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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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