Chatological Humor update

May 22, 2018

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.

One poll today, four parameters.

Click here if you lean left. Click here if you lean right.

Click here if you're 36 and younger. Click here if you're 37 and older.

Good afternoon. 

If you have not already taken the poll, please do so now because I am right away, right now, going to start explaining why your answers, so far, are dreadfully wrong and worrisome, and bode ill for the future of our great nation.  

Okay, so. 

You guys pretty clearly feel the college president was right to apologize -- whether or not the initial "offense" was actually insensitive.  I cannot recall poll results with which I so profoundly disagree.  If I were president Perry, I would have reacted entirely differently. 

I would have begun by telling people that there are no bad actors here, that everyone is acting earnestly and without malice, but also that there is no need for anyone to apologize for anything.  

I would say I understand the complaints that are being made, but disagree with them, and I would explain why forthrightly: 

I would say it is unreasonable to argue that "Party like it's 1776" is -- directly or implicitly - an endorsement of all of the mores and morals of the time.  It is quite plainly a different sort of statement, much more benign and, frankly, obvious:  This is Philadelphia, cradle of the American Revolution, venue of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and in 1776, the locals (white and black, by the way; black people in the north were cruelly misled into thinking this soaring document was their brethren's best shot freedom) were generally elated and proud and celebrated in the streets.  That's what this is about.   To argue otherwise may be well-intentiond, but it also seems churlish, even childish. 

Should we no longer celebrate July 4 at all in the U.S., not just because of slavery but because, at the time, women were essentially chattel?  Should we no longer celebrate ANY U.S.-based holiday because our country is, and always has been, imperfect? (Like all countries?

Should a beerseller's convention be picketed for saying "Party like it's 1932," the year Prohibition ended, because it is insensitive to families destroyed by the Depression, or because racism and antisemitism were rampant at the time?

Okay, but wait.  What is the problem with being a little oversensitive, making an apology, soothing ruffled feelings, and moving on? 

I'm glad you asked.  There are two big problems. 

1.  Helping Donald Trump.   Trump and his minions are wrong and mean-spirited about almost everything.  On this issue, however, they are largely right; more important, they are PERCEIVED as largely right.  College campuses all too often seem like caldrons of liberal groupthink and liberal intellectual tyranny.  Many Americans -- including liberals like me -- who agree with conservatives on almost nothing, find some common ground here.  And that is not good for our side, and for obvious reasons.  This is helping Trump build his base.  Let's not give them the ammunition.  Yes, it is good to be sensitive to the feelings of others, and moving in a more inclusive direction is a good thing.  But we need to rigorously police this in a commonsense way, and that means not giving in to a silly complaint simply to avoid internal controversy. 

2. Colleges don't just teach physics and the humanities.  They should also be teaching maturity of judgment in decisionmaking.  They should also be preparing young adults to greet the real world; if they go out there feeling coddled, and entitled to extreme cultural deference, and believing in their right not to be offended even by trivialities, they will be crushed under the weight of reality, and subject to ridicule. 

This is a serious mistake, President Perry. 

Finally, I want to make sure you all saw this, submitted by the redoubtable Pat the Perfect.   Read it now because I will follow with a personal experience. 

So, many years ago I was working one night as the "Night Editor" at the Style Section.   One of the responsibilities was approving all headlines before they went to press. 

There was a story about Warren Beatty.  As I recall (I might have the specifics a little wrong) the story was about how he was engaging in political activism, but it also mentioned his robust and seemingly indiscriminate sex life. 

A headline came through to me, reading something like: "Warren Beatty, Actor Cum Activist."  So I went to the woman who wrote it -- a somewhat proper lady:

Me:  Don't think we can go with this. 

Lady:  Why?

Me: Uh, it might be perceived as a little crude.

Lady:  Crude?  Why? 

Me: Uh, the, um, word "cum."

Lady: What's wrong with that? 

Me:  (Sigh.)

I had to explain.  She was horrified. 

--

Okay, we start at noon sharp. 

Oh, I should mention that I stupidly conflated "principal' with "president" and "college" with "high school," but the argument is still identical.   

To everyone that voted something other than the last option - What the hell is wrong with you?

That was sort of the import of my whole endless intro.  You put it better. 

Hi Gene- I am a hot, dog-loving, late-thirties lady, and you have been a great guide in my life, from my early twenties to my career to marriage and now parenting. I like cursing and I use it appropriately for emphasis. And sometimes I just use curses because I like them. This morning, my 3-year old looked at our dog and said, "Dog, it's so f***ing cold outside!" When I asked her to repeat what she said, she did, and very clearly. I couldn't help laughing, and I told her basically that she can say that word to me, but not to say it out at school because it hurts some people's feelings. How can I better explain this to her? Am I a horrible mother if I allow my 3-year old to curse freely? Your word is golden.

Thank you.  You can call me Dad if you like.

You know, I am surprised I never had to have that conversation with either of my kids, because I cursed around them, but for some reason they never really picked it up, not even as adults.  

I think you did exactly the right thing.   "Hurt their feelings" is a good way to put it, as opposed to, say, 'it's a dirty word.'  Now, be prepared to have to answer WHY it will hurt their feelings and, um, what does it mean? Have an answer ready so she can't leap on your discomfort or hesitation and thing, whoa, there's something naughty in here. 

Gene, I'm getting married this weekend. I've been a longtime reader of yours, and I'd love to hear your thoughts - what is your best advice for a youngish guy just embarking on married life?

When you are with your wife,, never EVER EVER even peek at another woman.  For God's sake, respect her that much, she deserves it.  

Sorry, for some reason this seems like the most important advice. 

The kid graduated "Summa - - - Laude" from a Christian homeschooling program. WTF? Aren't those honorifics reserved for college? And I suspect the bar is pretty low in a Christian homeschooling program.

I suspect this was simply his parents' judgment on his accomplishments.  I have no problem with it. 

The veterinarian who is working on my cat's teeth today is ... Dr. Fang.

VERY nice.   See, now this is a worthy aptonym, as opposed to the ones in the next post. 

Gene, I thought of you when I read this article: http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20180404-do-our-names-push-us-toward-certain-jobs A very good aptonym roundup with some research to boot!

Not impressed.  It is a FAIRLY good aptonym collection, without any real humor or cleverness like Les McBurney, the firefighter.  But mostly I question the validity of the findings.  I kind of side with the quoted skeptic.  

 

It IS worth reading, and the theory is interesting on its face. 

Not really sure I can make up my mind about this so I picked the middle choice. I don't think it is as bad as Smith College's decision to change "your daughter" to "your Smith student" in the letters sent to parents at the end of the semester inviting them to purchase a snack pack for their daughter for finals week. My daughter was her class secretary her senior year and was not happy that she had to make the change. They also removed she and her and stuff like that from official documents. The problem? Smith is a woman's college and you have to identify as a female to apply there. But some change after they get there so they have to be sensitive to them. My problem with all that is if you believe you are a guy why are you going to a woman's college? (and like the woman in the Nanny Diaries said, not everyone who goes to Smith is a lesbian- my daughter's estimate was about 10% actually.)

You know, I don't find the Smith thing nearly as bad.  I'm not even sure it is bad at all.   There is no difference between "your daughter" and "your Smith student."  They are identical references.  So who cares, and if it might save the sensibilities of one or two transexuals or non-binaries, fine.  

No he didn't. He happened to be mayor of NYC when crime went down on its own. This has been studied and analyzed many, many times using comparable, U.S., non-Rudy mayored cities that did not employ his tactics. Violent and property crime, as a whole, went down in the U.S. during that time. Some argue it was the effects of lead in gasoline finally working their way out of the system, and some argue it was the after-effects of legalized abortion. In no way can it be statistically tied to an increase in police officers or his B.S. "broken windows" policy masquerading as Rudy's racist and civil-rights trampling efforts.

I'll accept this.  Absent better information. 

I don't like dachshunds. I'll admit it, they scare me. It started when I was a child whose neighbors had a number of dogs. I got dropped off from school at the foot of a shared driveway. The neighbor's dogs liked to come down to where their driveway forked from ours. They would surround me, and bark at me. I would stand still until they lost interest and went away, which sometimes took a whole. Somehow, the alpha dog of that pack was a dachshund. Despite their small size, they're actually quite toothy little mothers when their snouts are open and snarling at you. I grew up with dogs and I love dogs, but this pack was beyond my coping skills as a child. As a grownup, I'm quite candid about my view of dachshunds, and why. I have friends with dachshunds, as well as a cousin who has two. I get that those dogs are loved and that the owners feel safe. None of them has ever done anything bad to me. I've petted them. I've come to regard my irrational fear as a quirk that is unique to me, and not a little bit amusing to others. I don't mind that. But then I saw this: https://nypost.com/2018/05/16/pack-of-wiener-dogs-mauls-woman-to-death/ I emailed it to my cousin with the two dachshunds. To my surprise, she reported that her mailbox had been flooded with emails forwarding that link. In a follow up email, she wrote that my view "is a prevalent feeling." Then she mentioned a study that led me to this: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/2254479/Sausage-dogs-are-the-most-aggressive-dogs.html. She says that pit bull owners cite that study "with glee." On the one hand, I'm pleased to learn that I'm not so nuts after all. On the other hand, the horror! The horror!

And yet, and yet. . . . 

The original Guinness Book of World Records (1977) declared that the bitingest breed to be the German Shepherd.   And my daughter the vet, anecdotally, has cited the Chow.  And lo and behold, I just "drilled down deeper," went back to the Guinness list, and found their number two biter is ... th Chow. Another study found the toothiest to be the lab, which the Guinness Book declared the LEAST bitey breed.

There is a lot of misinformation out there, based on faulty stats.   But the dachshund is on almost no one's list.  Finally, there is this in the Huffpo, which basically says none of these stats are to be trusted.   Chatological Humor hereby declares the bitingest dog to be whatever breed your dog is.  

Some quietly

Ha.  Not original, right?   If delivered aloud, it should be with a Chico Marx accent. 

I enjoyed your column on Sunday about the job interview. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/magazine/gene-weingarten-imagine-an-awful-job-interview-now-picture-it-conducted-by-russian-bots/2018/05/14/efda631c-430b-11e8-bba2-0976a82b05a2_story.html?utm_term=.10daeead8f8b The last line was a lovely kicker. How long did you work at the Freep? That used to be a great newspaper and I hope that with other meetings with the editor were done face-to-face.

They were.  He was a terrific editor, forced out after a magazine article insinuated he was having an affair with an assistant city editor, which, I think, he was.   Angry, he then went on to write the screenplay for  "Absence of Malice."

I know this is ridiculous, but I keep wishing there were a way to force everyone to report the news and discuss policy without reference to party. As in, "a politician wore a tan suit. Without knowing who it was, what's your opinion on that?" Is there a way to make this happen?

I'm not following.   A politician's affiliation is more often than not essential information when you are covering opinions on an issue. 

Bonfire of the Vanities? How about War and Peace, the Brothers Karamazov, Mrs. Dalloway, David Copperfield, Huckleberry Finn, the Sun Also Rises, the Great Gatsby, the Handmaids' Tale, and Beloved to start with.

Well, you have certain tastes.  I have mine. 

Asked to "Tell us about yourself." I replied "You have my resume." Very long awkward time lag until they gave up and asked next question. Got the job, which probably says something sad about the agency and me.

I would have thrown you out on the spot.  Seriously.  That's a majorly arrogant and rude answer. 

I agree that colleges should be challenging students to think, not coddling them. But I think colleges lost that battle when they started charging crazy amounts of money for tuition and room and board. For 60k a year private, 30k a year public, of course the "customer is always right" aka whatever the students want, goes.

Wrong.  By that argument everyone should get an A.  Because thats what students REALLY want. 

I'm over 37 and liberal as they come. But, man, I am just worn out over everyone being offended by everything all. the. time. Really, I am both mentally and physically tired to the point where I just don't care anymore. There are big offenses and there are minor offenses but now they are all treated with the same gravity. What if our legal system was this way? Shoplifted a pack of gum? LWOP. Multiple murder and rape? LWOP. I just want all this BS to stop.

Took me 10 full seconds to figure out LWOP.

Are you still carrying over submissions that you didn't get to from the last chat? Last week I sent an answer to one of your questions to us, but it was barely before the chat closed, and I want to know if I should resend it. Basically I want to know whether I should let you reject it again, or reject it for the first time.

Good news: I do look at leftovers.  Bad news: That means I already rejected you. 

The Appreciation for Tom Wolfe had a headline along the lines of "He electrified Kool-Aid. Then he electrified the novel." However, the body of the story did not actually contain the title "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test." There was no reference to Kool-Aid in the story at all. Is it just assumed that everyone is familiar with it? Should it be assumed?

Yeah, that was a mistake.  It's one of those odd cases -- I've seen it happen -- where the headline writer, who really did come up with a good idea, probably should have asked the writer to add the name of the book in there, somewhere.  No biggie. 

Have you ever called one of those nurse-staffed hotlines sponsored by insurance companies? I have never called myself, but I have always suspected that they will ALWAYS tell you to seek medical attention, because they don't want the liability of telling you there's no problem. Of course, my suspicion is correct, there's really no point in calling.

I have the same suspicion.  Also, it's a way to sell pharmaceuticals.  It's what doctors do. 

I am in the camp that says this is sensitivity run amok. I work on a university campus and earlier this year, the athletics department sent out a post promoting Hawaiian night at the upcoming basketball game. The post had a white athlete with a plastic lei around his neck. Oh my word the blowback that caused -charges of cultural appropriation, insensitivity to the true meaning of leis etc. The athletics department apologized and cancelled Hawaiian night.

Wow.  Before I pass judgment, I'd like to Hawaiian night entailed. 

Compromise is the key to a happy marriage. Be prepared to win 5-10% of the time. As they say happy wife happy life.

Noted. 

"Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" "Uh, celebrating my fifth anniversary with this firm."

Well, I said that in the column.

My spouse loves to get the paper edition of the Post to read with her coffee and to help discover articles she might not have seen online. But it is really weird when the Post puts an article in the paper edition 4 days later than the online version (e.g. "Man finds birth father with help from Japanese birth mother" published online May 17, in the paper Metro section May 21.) Just wondering if the editors are endlessly holding onto articles just for days where the page layout doesn't quite fit in the paper edition.

Online newspapering has changed a lot of things.  There are no deadlines anymore -- all deadlines are constant -- and editors feel the pressure to publish online stories first, for that reason.  A competitive thing.    Once it is out there, there is no real pressure to "get it into the paper soon."  The problem is, in my view it devalues the paper-paper.  People read a story they've already read, and think, "why am I paying for this?"

Have you heard about the Dog Show movie? Apparently there is a storyline about the dog getting used to having a judge touch his genitals. There is discussion of going to his “zen place” to get through it. Mom bloggers and Conservative bloggers are outraged. Saying it’s encouragibg children to allow people to inappropriately touch them. What say you??

I say that if we report that dogs eat poop, is that giving license to children to eat poop?

Two thoughts. One. I completely agree with you down to the last word. I rarely read anything (including from you) that so perfectly captures exactly what I am thinking and why. Two. You wrote that before I voted, and possibly many others. How did the voting turn out by noon? What is the lean/age divide, if any? Among this audience, at least, is there any hope of sanity?

The voting has been pretty consistent throughout! 

Going to the Nats game tonight, so long as the rain doesn't put a damper on our plans. There are SO many food choices now, so I want to know - what should I eat while I'm there?

I'll throw this open to everyone.   I am a fan of their Italian hotdogs and bratwurst.    Senator Sausages, or something?

You are too glib to automatically subsume “Party Likes It’s 1776” under the broader heading of celebrating American independence. If that’s what they wanted to celebrate, they could have said so. No one would have complained (just as no one complains about Independence Day) because independence is a concept that is essentially inherently positive. A year of history is much more than just the biggest event to happen in that year. It encompasses a whole lot more, much of which is not inherently positive. They made a specific choice to go with the broader, more all-encompassing framing and therefore it’s appropriate to hold them accountable for it. And if we’re not going to try to make a culture and society that errs on the side of thoughtfulness and respect just because Trump voters find that triggering, then we might as well pack it in now. I refuse to allow a bunch of troglodytes to hide or deemphasize my own liberal values.

I am confused. What do you think "Party like it's 1776" means?  What is it celebrating other than the celebrations following the signing?

what about "what in particular would you like to know about me?" Seems like an appropriate answer to the question.

ANYTHING is better than the answer he or she gave. Except punching the interviewer.

I was casually mentioning to my liberal friends that Trump was making George W. Bush look like a genius and a compassionate humanitarian in comparison to Trump. Their response surprised me. "At least Trump hasn't gotten us into two endless wars." Do you agree that as long as Trump doesn't start a war, he should always be ranked higher than W based on the devastation of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars?

No.  I think George W. was a dreadful president, and will be savaged by historians.   It's too early to tell, but I think Trump will finally oust Buchanan for last place. 

For the record, I don't think the Afghanistan war was a mistake, exactly.   We were attacked by Afghanistan, which was harboring Osama.  We HAD to retaliate.   Iraq was an insane idiotic blunder with dreadful consequences.

There is one other issue in making this W-Trump comparison.   Temperament / honesty and such are a factor in presidential rankings.  Both Gerald Ford and Grover Cleveland get points for having brought decency back into the Oval Office after years of corruption.   

My point is that the president AFTER Trump might get a boost in that regard. 

Am I the only one who clicks on the other polls, and then clicks "View Results" without making a choice, just to see the differences? And Teddy, please tell me whether or not non-votes like that have any kind of effect on the polls; while I can't imagine they could, since I didn't vote, I've learned that there's a lot I cannot imagine until I have reason to do so.

Teddy?

Well - trying to see the silver lining, besides the obvious in creased consumption of wine, etc. that helps the economy - I definitely feel like I care more about who gets elected, and I try to go out of my way to seem friendly and non-threatening (I'm a hispanic who passes for regular old white american) to all races. I definitely am calling myself out internally for biases. Still don't know how I'm going to deal with my Trump supporting sister and her husband when they come to visit for Thanksgiving....

There are things I don't understand. 

How can a Hispanic person support Trump?  It's probably a naive or even offensive question, but this man has contempt for Hispanic people. 

You raged against a milquetoast "college president," then noted parenthetically that you meant high school principal. You don't think the responsibilities of the principal of a high school whose students are children and the president of a college whose students are independent young adults might be different?

I think they are identical.   

The "offended" people are too precious and should stay home and nurse that while everyone else goes to prom.

I don't blame the offended people.  They are products of their time and place.   Their time and place have told them being offended is cool. 

I am faithfully liberal/progressive, well over 37, strive never to hurt people's feelings and can’t hold back tears whenever there’s another story about a black person or other minority being treated with suspicion, unjustly arrested or harmed Having said that, I absolutely think this is “oversensitivity run amok.” Still, there's nothing wrong with apologizing --- you really can't ever go wrong saying you're sorry. Or simply say that you hadn’t considered that point of view and it gave you something think about. It’s given me something think about. But I still come to the conclusion that it’s a bridge too far.

So you don't mind dishonesty in the pursuit of mollycoddling the youth?

Hi Gene - I saw your tweet a little while back about horoscopes being nonsense, and I wanted to share a story about the diabolical and highly effective way that an elementary school teacher of mine taught us that. My fourth grade teacher was great at her job. In our fourth grade science class, one of our units was about the different fields of science - geology, biology, chemistry, astronomy, etc. One day, she told us that the day's lesson was going to be on astronomy vs. astrology. First, she described both. She asked us to formulate a hypothesis as to whether each counted as a science. Most of us said both were, largely based on the fact that they both sounded science-ey. Next, she said we were going to do an "astrology experiment." She presented each of us with a photocopy of the day's horoscopes and told us to read the one for the sign indicated by our birthdays. (This seemed cool to us, because BIRTHDAYS!!!) She asked each of us to do a five-minute freewrite explaining the ways in which the horoscope accurately described how our day was going so far. Then we discussed these in small groups. These discussions were animated - "Woah, my horoscope says I'll face a big challenge today and I totally did have to run the mile in gym class!" "Wow, my horoscope says I'll talk to a friend and I did that just now! Freakishly accurate!" Then, she presented the kicker: "Students, these are actually horoscopes from six months ago. ASTROLOGY IS NOT A REAL SCIENCE. Never confuse it with astronomy." We were outraged, but laughing. It was all in good humor. We were always trying to trick her in class so it was sort of fun to be tricked by her. Man, she was a great teacher. This was a most impression-forming lesson. To this day, I never mix up astrology and astronomy, and I never even give the horoscopes a glance. I wonder if the fact that astrology sounds like a science lends it more credence for some people - it just seems like more people are into astrology than, say, palm-reading (since that sounds plainly ridiculous).

What a great story, and I LOVE that teacher.  

I address this subject in an upcoming column. 

Lately, I've noticed grocery clerks asking to see the ID of everyone accompanying a shopper purchasing alcohol. Sometimes people protest and say, "but it's not my beer, I'm not buying it" and the clerk says something like, "if you're not their child, I need to see ID." Which is a super weird thing to say. Can any chatters with a legal/civil rights background shed some light on the logic of stores asking random people for their legal identification? Isn't this a lawsuit waiting to happen?

It sounds horrifying to me, although there might be some legal basis to it if minors are not allowed in the store, period.  Are they?  Any lawyers around with expertise in this?

Why are the sensitivities of trans-sexuals ("and if it might save the sensibilities of one or two transexuals or non-binaries, fine") any different than the sensitivities of the black colleges students in Philly? The women at Smith are proud to be women at a woman's college. Unofficial slogan: "It's not a girl's school without men, it's a woman's college without boys."

I love that slogan. 

The difference is that addressing a transsexual in the gender he or she departed from, is an insult.   

There is no insult in acknowledging people partied in 1776. 

I believe the poster's point was that readers/listeners decide on a politician's honesty purely based on whether they have a (D) or an (R) next to their names, not on the facts.

That's the readers' fault, not the media's. 

One of my peeves is businesses and cities promoting Memorial Day sales and civic events with "Honor Our Veterans and Service Personnel" Memorial Day is to remember the dead military members, Veterans Day is to honor the living

Even if they say "honor our dead veterans," it is gigantically crass to use this sentiment to sell throw pillows. 

I can't wait to hear Alex read the clue for tonight's Final Jeopardy ( https://www.jeopardy.com/games/new-york-times-clue-of-the-day ). I wonder how many complaints will some in from sensitive viewers.

The complaint would be what? That it is crude?  It isn't.  

Speaking of which, the NYT xword recently had the word "schmuck" in it.   Outrage ensued, because the original derivation of schmuck, in Yiddish, is "penis."

A ridiculous thing to get offended by.  The word waay transcends its original meaning. 

Still haven't figured it out

Life without parole. 

I have a dachshund/min-pin mix, and while he's pretty much an emo cat masquerading as a dog, he can be pretty ferocious when he's scared or when there's an intruder. He has been on double-secret probation for biting a woman who tried to help him when he got loose, and he nipped at a few men who have been in the house (friends, HVAC guy) - all unprovoked. So, it's not surprising to read about weiner dogs getting feisty. However, the article from the OP notes that those dogs were all covered with ticks, so they were likely partly feral.

And pissed off at life.  They were hurtin'.  

If the stories are true, that would be Chris Dodd and Ted Kennedy, who enjoyed offering sausages to any female under 30.

I'll bet that's not true. 

I use this as an idiot test. If someone uses the phrase "cultural appropriation" in a non-ironic way I am 95% sure they are an idiot.

Going too far.  I think there is such a thing.  I just don't think it is satisfied by, say, serving egg rolls or tacos at a party. 

The legendary scam debunker James Randi used to do something similar. He'd stand up in a class and pass out horoscopes that had been "customized" for each student by name and birthday. He got them talking about how accurate they were, how brilliant the astrologer must be, etc. Then he told them to exchange the papers with the person next to them. They were all identical.

Ha. 

.

She is in Sweden, accepting the Nobel Prize for puns. 

As a 50-something black woman, who is not easily offended, I'd have to say the apology was welcome. My mind immediately went to "oh, I'm supposed to meet in the slave quarters and dance a jig because Masta got his freedom?" But, I shrugged it off as the kind of ignorance I'm used to. I think that you and some other commenters don't realize that a lot of African American people do NOT celebrate "Independence Day", because we know that it did not include US being free. It gives us no warm and fuzzy feeling at all. We celebrate "the 4th of July"...as a day off from work, with fireworks and cookouts.

This is the first dissent that means something to me. 

"We were attacked by Afghanistan, which was harboring Osama..." No. We were attacked by Al Qaeda, which was hiding in Afghanistan with the help of the Taliban. Saying we we were attacked by Afghanistan would be as accurate as saying we were attacked by Saudi Arabia. Since Al Qaeda was driven out of Afghanistan, there has been NO reason for us to be there, other than waging a Vietnam-esque war against the Taliban.

We WERE attacked by Saudi Arabia. 

I have a dog named Riley. She's a golden, roly poly, sniffling bundle of absolute love. When it storms she herds all of her toys under the kitchen table so she can guard them against thunder. Her favorite position is rolled over, looking at you upside down, tail a-thumping. She has the confidence of a senior class prom queen, except around small terriers, who cow her for reasons deep in her dog psyche. She is wonderful. Gene, I can't have a dog. Riley is entirely fictional. But imagining that in some alternate cosmos there could be a creature that loves me dearly, devotedly, and indiscriminately makes the dark days warmer. Which makes my pragmatic atheist heart wonder: is this how Christians feel about Jesus?

That's really sweet, and clearly you know something about dogs even though you don't have one.  

What about it, Christians?

As I've tumbled down the Twitter wormhole, I've discovered David Simon. Why is he so dyspeptic? Do you resent that he has 10 times as many followers as you have?

1. Because it is his personal and professional identity.  He is always in high dudgeon. 

2. Not at all. He is much more famouser.  And smarter. 

I'm actually a little more offended that it's just a bad invite. The whole premise is bad. "Party like it's 1999" was about partying because the world was about to end, just sayin'.

It makes perfect sense!  Philadelphia wildly celebrated 1776.

I'm torn on this, which is why I answered with the wishy-washy version about "apology good, but insensitivity minuscule." It's kind of hard to imagine any historical event that involved a large number of people in which there is no one who feels bad about it. And because it's an historic event (I cannot break the habit of "an" before "h") chances are that "feels bad" involves human death and suffering. That's just the way history is. Sure, you could "party like you're in Alexander Fleming's forgotten petri dish", but that means you are either a happy black bread mold or a dying bacterium. What fun! So does that take all political history off the table for a party, even 1776 in Philadelphia? No "Party Like it's Seneca Falls!", because some of the women who wanted greater freedoms were also pretty racist. Of course, in trying to come up with historic theme concepts that would make a lot of people comfortable but justifiably anger a few so that we are unfairly constrained by the few, I find I'm coming up mostly dry. Which forces me to consider that I'm just being defensive and there's a serious point here that I would just rather not deal with. Which is why I chose the wishy-washy answer about how an apology was a good thing, even though the offense was unintentional and slight.

See, I think your thinking at the end is bad.  It's kind of intellectually dishonest!  

I write "a historic" because it is correct, "h" being a consonant, but I SAY "an historic," because it flows more freely.  

Also quite an anti-Semitic era. No Jewish founding fathers that I can recall...

You are forgetting Benjamin Frankstein. 

I got the opposite of that - I asked in an interview what a typical day on that job would entail, and got an accusing reply of "Didn't you read the job description?" and no other answer. I beat a hasty retreat.

That's also rude.  The job description is NOT the same as what a typical day would be.

Do you really think that? That is, do you think the 9/11 attacks were instigated or supported by the Saudi government? If you do, what should our response have been? Is it too late to do it now?

Did you ever watch Fahrenheit 911?  

Agree. I didn't know what to call it at the time, but I was extremely annoyed at white people referring to "Bo Derek braids" when cornrows, called that, were so obviously what they meant.

It would be like complimenting Elvis for coming up with Hound Dog. 

A month or more ago I wrote in (for a reason I can no longer remember) to say that you can unclog a toilet with soap and hot water and you asked how. You put in what seems like way too much dishsoap (count to four while squeezing) and then follow with several cups of the hottest water your tap produces. Shampoo would work, too. A plastic trash can be your water vessel in a pinch. I was in a new house without a plunger and searched the internet for plunger alternatives and was skeptical, but it worked!

Wow.  Good to know, and thanks. 

The principal or whoever thought of this slogan was too clever for his own good. The kids who are attending the prom (and it's "the prom," not "prom") don't remember what Prince wrote in 1982 about 1999 or why (or even that) the millennium was a big deal. Hell, they may not even have been born in 1999! Also, snowflakes etc. but that's secondary.

I disagree.  I don't see why you had to be aware of the Prince song to understand "party like it's 1776."  People partied in 1776.   

Also, a couple of posters said that Prince's song was eschatological, about the coming end of the world.  Mebbe it was (he references the Apocalypse) but I always took it just as referring to the obvious worldwide celebrations that were coming.  Am I wrong?

Take it up with Frederick Douglass, who brilliantly articulated why not everyone celebrates 1776. More and more people are recognizing this guy. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h2927t.html

Right.  But this was not celebrating 1776, in all its manifestations. 

I gave up on it when I saw that my "sign" is ALWAYS described as being outgoing, party and surprise loving. I'm none of those. And if the stars influence us shouldn't our "sign" be determined by the moment of conception, not birth? Planned cesareans etc. mess with the birth date.

Yeah, I have made the conception argument.  And yes, planned Caesarians change God's plan.  

Yes, although not in awhile. As I recall, it made the case that the Bush family had extensive connections with Saudi Arabia, and immediately after 9/11 the U.S. spirited a lot of Saudis out of the U.S. without allowing the FBI to question them. There were individuals who certainly behaved suspiciously. But I don't recall a compelling argument that the Saudi government actually caused or permitted the attacks.

There are still unreleased documents from the 9/11 report.  

Thanks, Dad. My friend had a good point when I wondered whether I should even allow her to curse around the house. She said, "As long as you're find with it when she's 13 and yells at you to 'f*** off!,' then you're good"

I'd be fine with that. 

Now that one was dumb. Anyone who actually believed the world was going to end then was a moron.

Well, there WERE cults that believed that.  And yes, morons. 

Haym Solomon was one of the financiers of the Revolution.

Haven't heard this name since I was 12 years old and did a book report on him.  It was a very boring book report. 

The Jerk food stand is fabulous. Freestanding near the big bar on the second level plaza, has chicken and ribs. Tastes like food as opposed to ballpark food.

Isn't jerk filled with paprika? I hate paprika.

How sad is it that I know the answer Alexander Pushkin, without even googling — but check my phone to make sure of my son's birthday?

Pushkin, interesting fella.  From Wiki:

Pushkin was an impulsive man and fought many duels. Indeed, his fatal duel was the second time he had challenged Georges d’Anthès, a French officer in the Russian Guard, for besmirching his honor.

The first occasion was in November 1836, when he received an anonymous pasquinade called “Certificate of a Cuckold”, which contained a clear allusion to his wife Natalya Goncharova's infidelity. There were rumors in St. Petersburg that Tsar Nicholas I held a candle for Goncharova, but clearly Pushkin could not challenge the country’s supreme ruler, so he chose the second possible option as he saw it: d’Anthès. However, the Frenchman soon proposed to Ekaterina Goncharova, the sister of Pushkin’s wife, leading the poet to rescind his challenge.

We Leos do not believe in astrology.

Noted. 

Although "Hound Dog" was first recorded by Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton, it was composed by *cough* *cough* Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who were NOT Black.

Did Leiber and Stoller write Big Mama's version, where she is castigating her horndog man?

As best I remember it was partly referencing the angst about the dreaded computer generated chaos coming with "Y2K".

Nope, way too early for that.  Prince performed it in the early 1980s

Well, there's also the fact that all but two (or one?) of the hijackers were Saudi nationals. Plus Saudi oil dollars feed terrorist operations throughout the Middle East.

And more. 

Jerk is filled with cayenne, which I hate.

Ah yes.  Agreed. 

How on earth can you tell the difference between paprika and any other smoked/dried/ground red pepper thing? Don't you enjoy spicy foods in general?

1. I do not. 

2.  I can pick paprika out of any dish, just by smelling its fetidness. 

Q: "Party like it's 1999" was about partying because the world was about to end, just sayin'. Now that one was dumb. Anyone who actually believed the world was going to end then was a moron. Yeah - duh. But the frickin' song was written like that. Like no one believes that The Walking Dead is a documentary, but it's about zombies....

And the great Roky Erickson's "I walked with the zombies" was not about zombies.  It was about a night he spent in the loony bin, with everyone tranked out on Haldol. 

Okay, I have to go.  Thank you all.  Next week, right here. 

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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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