Chatological Humor update

Feb 13, 2018

(Producer Gene 2.0's note: We said we were canceled but we're OK! Join Gene at noon)

You asked for it and you got it. Gene will now be holding weekly mini-chats, where he takes your questions about what's happening in the country -- and anything else you want to discuss.

Good afternoon.   I was going to cancel the chat today -- my computer is acting up and I am a bit under the weather -- but Tom Rapp died yesterday, and I need to talk about that.  

Tom Rapp may be the greatest rock musician / somngwriter  you never heard of.   Okay, there was also Roky Erickson, but Tom was better, though both were great.  

Tom fronted a band called Pearls Before Swine in the 1960s and early 1970s.  I grew up loving his stuff, and wondering where he had gone, and eventually found him practicing law in Philadelphia.  This was the story I wrote about him.   I am really moved by his death in ways I can't quite explain. 


Here is his masterpiece.  

Wait.  Here's another one. 

One more.  

Oh, and this is one of the great albums of all time. 


We start at noon.  I am very sad. 


Gene, you casually mention the Redskins are nearing the end of their Super Bowl drought. I can offer no reasonable explanation why you would think that. In fact, as a Skins fan, one of the most painful things about watching the Eagles win on Sunday was the realization that my team is nowhere near that.

Huh?  No.   I didn't suggest that, did I?  I think the Skins are doomed to suck as long as Snyder owns them.  

We may never know who the greatest football was. We tend to focus on the QB/RB/WR, with a few exceptions like Lwarence Taylor or Reggie White. But, what if the greatest ever was an offensive lineman. How would we know?

Good point!   Who was the best OL ever?   I doubt if there is any consensus!   Oh, and hello everyone.  Not sure how long I last today.  Kinda sick.  Sick and tired.  Sick and tired of being sick and tired. 

Gene’s right, your argument is nonsense. When the “pro-life” crowd starts making noise about torture (anti-life), the death penalty (anti-life), the National shame that is our maternal/infant/child mortality rate, hunger, poverty etc I *might* be willing to concede the “pro-life” title. As a movement they are entirely anti-choice. Signed a liberal who thought it horridly ironic to hear the candidate that’s wouldn’t say tourture is bad called “pro-life”

The choir is in the room.  Preach, brother.  Or sister. 

Saw your tweet about your dog ratting out your cat. This is a frequent occurrence in my house as the dog will bark and whimper if he thinks that cat is doing something wrong (e.g. laying on table, trying to escape). As punishment, the cat occasionally pees on the dog's bed. The real loser is me.

Yes, that is correct.  

The most amazing interspecies action I have ever seen involved my parrot, Matthew, and my dog, Sam.   Sam was stupid and Matthew was not.  But they interacted brilliantly.   Sammy would pee on the rug in front of Matthew's cage, so I would think the parrot had done it.  But Matthew, who had the run of the house, would fly to the mantel, pick up a little soapstone bear in his talons, and drop it on Sam's head.  Sam was a Samoyed, and I loved her.  Matthew was a Mexican double yellow head, and I loved him as much as I ever loved a pet.   I am getting weepy here.  They have both been dead 25 years.  that is what animals do to us.  And for us.  


Cell phones and eVite have wrecked the social contract in terms of commitment. It used to be that if you said you were meeting someone at X spot at Y time, both of you had to be there. There was no texting to say, "I'm going to run across the street to get a coffee, meet me there instead." Similarly, eVite allows you to change your response, or even to respond that "maybe" you'll come. These things have basically rewired our sense of commitment.

The thing that most freaks me out, the modern thing, is that it is now considered rude to telephone someone.  I can't get my head around that. 

Okay, I clicked a few of the other albums that were listed by other obscure acid rock/60s and 70s bands. Holy sh*t!!! I feel like I just went through a time warp! WILD STUFF MAN!


I'm a 60s folkie and am not familiar with Tom Rapp or Pearls At All. I thought I knew all of the "never heard of" folksingers. I shall have to investigate.

Please do.  This guy was great. 

Can't stay and chat, but I feel your pain. Never understood why more people didn't love this band.

The band was basically just Tom.  When I interviewed him years ago, he didn't have vinyls of his stuff.  I gave him mine.  He never made ANY money from his band.  It was all ripped off by a dishonest agent.   

Should I give a lot of credit to Jeff Flake for speaking up to Trump on so many issues, or is he just the latest coward who only gets brave when he isn't running for reelection anymore?

I think both.  I appreciate what he has done, though. 

Enjoyed reading your profile of Tom Rapp, whom I'd never heard of until today. Your profile is twenty years old, but he seemed to know he could find fulfillment in other ways than the original path he had set for himself. Had you kept in touch with him in the past 20 years?

A few times, yes.   He was a brilliant, gentle soul.  

I have a journalism style question that occurred to me recently. I've noticed in almost all newspaper articles, that people's ages are identified even when such information doesn't seem germane to the story. I can see instances where age is relevant, but there are many more circumstances where a person's age doesn't matter. Yet, age is routinely included in the story. Is there a reason for this?

It used to be mandatory, back when I was a yoot.  I don't think it's true today? Is it?  Are we seeing ages all the time? 

There are 15 in the NFL right NOW better than Stabler.

Yes, exactly.  I mean, I have no idea what that person was thinking.  Kenny Stabler also once planted drugs on a sportwriter he didn't like.  

Was clearly my uncle Rudy, who was the star running back on 3 college national championship teams back in the '30s despite being about 5'5" and maybe 120 lbs (in the modern game, Tom Brady could probably throw HIM for a 75-yard touchdown).

I will accept that on faith.  Hail your uncle Rudy. 

Anthony Munoz, who revolutionized the left tackle position. You could also make a case for John Hannah, Forrest Gregg, or Bruce Matthews.

Thank you.  I remember Forrest Gregg. And Munoz.   I liked Jumbo Elliott, but mostly because of his nickname. 

Thank you so much for this article. I was a small child in Melbourne, FL in 1967, when your article states Tom developed the band. I have no direct memory of him or his music. When I clicked on the link to "Rocket Man," I was taken right back to a day in January of 1967 when I came home from school, and found my dad home from work (something that NEVER happened). He was weeping (ditto) and washing the car. A marvel of the most frightening sort. You see, my dad worked at Cape Canaveral, and that day three astronauts died on the launch pad. Everyone who could be spared was sent home. That day-- the hope of space, the grief of loss, the realization that this was serious s*** and the price that families (including ours) paid for workaholic husbands and fathers who loved the idea of space travel more than (I cry as I write) they loved us.... This song captures it all. I'm sure Tom felt all of that sorrow and determination and abandonment too, if he was living there. It's all right there in the song. Thanks for re-introducing me to his music. I'm so sorry for your loss, and mine.

Well, now you have me crying.   

Thank you for not canceling today. I’ve been looking forward to this chat since the story broke about Rob Porter. I have several reactions to this. First, I am shocked, but not surprised, at the actions of the Trump administration, both in hiring someone who had an apparent history of domestic abuse and in Trump’s despicable comments wishing him well and touting due process (Trump seems to be a recent convert on the due process score). Nothing this administration does surprises me anymore, but I’m shocked on a daily basis. I think it’s important to put that aside, though. I disagree with your assessment of Trump’s sense of humor and found the treason comment dangerous (because that statement is red meat to his base). In this case, though, how much should we let go? Trump is clearly untroubled by domestic violence, even when he’s dealing directly with a wife beater. But he’s doing so much damage to our country and the domestic abuse issue can distract us from that. Also, I have a comment about Ben Stein, whose reaction to the picture of one of Porter’s ex-wives was something along the line that he needed more information because there was no indication that Porter himself was the perp. I think Ben Stein is scum, but what business is it of his? What is he going to do with the information if he knows behind a shadow of a doubt that Porter swung at his wife? It’s not like he has any role in this situation. That’s true of me, too. I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I firmly believe that when someone alleges abuse of any kind, the person doesn’t have to be believed, but has to be taken seriously. I have no idea what happened between Rob Porter and his ex-wives, but I take the statements o his ex-wives seriously. It’s too bad that no one at the White House, who had actual power and a role in this situation, didn’t take the same view.

I think that some people are capable of making baseless accusations, and I think accused people deserve to be heard.  I also tend to believe women who accuse, because women who accuse are setting themselves up for a s---load of abuse and hurt, and you'd have to be crazy to do that without cause.  My general assumption is with them, until proven otherwise. 

Taking a break from the Zulu parade to say hope you feel better. And there’s no place better than New Orleans from which to tell you musicians may die but their art lives on.

Is this Simon?  

That we know -- Mick Tingelhoff. Better even than Tunch Ilkin.

I remember Mick Tinglehoff! 

I had only been living in DC and reading the WaPo for a short time when that story ran, but I remember it! I had come across a mention of Tom Rapp in a biography of Phil Ochs, and I always liked the band name. Your story caught my attention for a number of reasons, not the least of which was your initial assumption, which I hope you overcame, that a rocker who becomes a lawyer working to better people's lives has had his soul crushed. And also because "Rocket Man" is one of the top ten examples of the utter mismatch between Elton John's gift for music and Bernie Taupin's tin ear for words. Rapp's use of the imagery is so much better.

Yep.  Well.  I believe I have written this: Bernie Taupin is the worst famous songwriter in human history.  I hope I will be forgiven for this, but I think Elton was voting with his gonads when he hooked up with Bernie.  

"If I was a sculptor but then again no...."

I have 5 dogs, all Labs or lab mixes, all adopted from a rescue. 1 dog, a big 100 lb. yellow, is a brat and if there is some kind of trouble, he is frequently responsible. Matter of fact, we call him The Usual Suspect. One of the other dogs, the smartest one and the Pack Leader seems to know this. She will quietly instigate the problem, the Big Boy starts barking and everyone starts hollering at him to shut up. Meanwhile, she sits back and smiles knowingly, leaving the Big Boy to take the rap.

Mattingly took a crap in the bed this morning because I was sick and late getting up.  I love dogs.  I mean, I really love dogs. 

You frequently mention your love for Dylan, and now PBS, but were you a fan of Phil Ochs? His humor and wit were amazing and I don't think he ever got his due, especially as compares to Dylan.

Man.  Thank you.  


Phil Ochs was one of my favorites.   I loved his stuff.   I have two Phil Ochs stories that I will now tell. 

Phil Ochs story #1.   It was 1969 or so.   I was in the living room with my grandma.  She was 198 years old.   She was half blind.  Her name was Bessie Shorr.   She looked over at a pile of record albums I had, and one was Tape From California, by Phil Oches.  His face was on the cover (more.)

So she looked at his face and said, "he is a Shorr."  And I said, no, he is a folksinger.   And she said, he is related to us.   And I said no, his name is Phil Ochs.  (more)

And she said, of course.  Ochs is Russian for Shorr.   And it was.   I have no f--ing idea what that was about, but I suspect I am related. 

And last, Phil killed himself by tying a rope around his neck and tying the other end around a door handle, and sitting down.  This is a man who really wanted to die. 

Hey! I met your awesome illustrator last night. He very kindly came back to his old high school program to talk to the incoming kids. He was an absolute delight and the parents really appreciated his enthusiasm for the program. I hope you will consider coming back to give a talk - my son (a big fan of yours) - is very interested in journalism (ok, sports writing), and he would love it!

I'd be happy to.  Eric is an a-hole and I say that with great affection and respect.  I love him. 

I'm sorry for your sorrow over the passing of this man. This is completely dumb, and a generational thing, when I saw your tweet, I thought the author of the comic died.


When he said "They call me the Snake" she started laughing and the encounter ended.


My father, a tough, athletic guy, was a member of our local ice-skating club, so he knew several members (and past members who'd moved away) who were selected to the US figure skating team, which was flying to the 1961 World Championships to be held in Warsaw. He was at work during the day when the radio reported news during the day that their plane had crashed in Belgium, killing all on board, including the entire team. Given that my father had no way of hearing that news at work, my mother explained to me when I got home from school that she had to break this news to him when he got home, and that I was to leave him alone. He went into the bathroom, shut the door, and sobbed for a long time. This Thursday will mark the 57th anniversary of the crash. (P.S. The World Championships were canceled that year). LINK:

Thanks a lot, jerko.   Another crying jag here. 

Uh, Bernie isn't gay and they weren't a couple.

Oh, I know that.   Doesn't mean Elton didn't dream. 

Thank you for saying that! I have been a fan of Elton John's music since I was a yoot and could never relate to the lyrics (with the possible exception of Candle in the Wind). I always thought it was me not understanding them.

Oh, Bernie is TERRIBLE.  

Candle in the Wind is a good song.  I don't know where it came from.  

Thank you for mentioning how attached you were to Matthew. "Bird people" are often considered kind of weird, and it wasn't until I lived with a parrot (my roommate's) for a few years that I had any idea how wonderful they were as pets. In terms of affection for their humans, much like a tiny dog, except a lot smarter. Ours used to fake us out by imitating the phone or microwave to get us to come into the kitchen, where his perch was. It's been years since my roommate's parrot passed away, and I still get teary talking about it.

Yeah.   Okay if you have had a parrot, you are in awe of how an animal with a brain the size of a marble can be that smart, and affectionate and personable, and that's when you start thinking about chickens, and when you stop thinking because suddenly things are getting very dark. 

I agree with you that he's clearly the best quarterback in our generation, and likely the best at the position all time, but I think it's interesting in how memories of success tends to overcome memories of failure. After all, how many other quarterbacks had the ball, in the final minute of the Super Bowl, and failed to win the game . . . not once, not twice, but three times? Only one--Tom Brady. So, is the best ever? Sure. But is he also the one who failed to come through in the clutch the most times? Yup. Such is sports.

Yep, and Mariano Rivera blew a couple of gigantic saves.  That helps DEFINE greatness.   

Isn't the best case for the Democrats if Trump tries to block its release? Also, Jerry Rice is still the GOAT.

Agreed, and agreed, maybe.   

The NY Times interviewed the choreographer who worked with the football players. They say no body doubles were used.

Right, but there were wires and such, yes?   I mean no way Eli is hoisting Odell, at 210 pounds.   Jennifer Gray weighed 115, max.  

Seems like a timeless line in light of recent events! BTW, I am too young to have known of Ochs until long after he died. I heard "Outside Of A Small Circle Of Friends" on Dr. Demento as a teen and got hooked.

Hey, I'm fading.   Gonna go now.  Listen to the Phil Ochs thing.  He was amazing.  

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.

Gene's latest columns, chats and more.
Recent Chats
  • Next: