Chatological Humor (September 17)

Sep 17, 2019

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.

Here is this week's poll.

Good afternoon. 

I got an IM yesterday from my good friend Pat Myers, who runs the Style Invitational, and is as good a judge of humor as anyone I know.   She wrote that she had just read the most horrible thing she had read that day.   It was this, about the seemingly vicious beating Ireland Baldwin had administered to her father, Alec Baldwin, at his celebrity roast. 

Pat was appalled.   She thought that it amounted to a hurtful, hateful airing of private grievances in a public setting.  

Pat was hardly alone.  The Web exploded with similar thoughts.  I understand them, and disagree. 

You cannot analyze this in the absence of important context: what a roast is, and how vicious they have become.  It is what they ARE.  They are on that cutting edge between comedy and offensiveness.  They are an in-joke among professional humorists.  If you want an example, you just have to watch DeNiro's performance from the same roast, in which he slams all the other guests. (Warning, the language is NSFW.)

A roast, by definition, is a way to express love and admiration for someone by savaging him or her.   In this case I am guessing that Ireland's lines were written mostly by Baldwin's friends.   They were extremely sophisticated, probably beyond the ability of even a precocious a 22 year old whose field is not comedy.  She delivered them well.  

I don't know this, obviously, but I am guessing that as she (apparently as a surprise) took the lectern, Baldwin was thinking "is she gonna GO for it?  Does my kid have the ovaries to really DO it?"

I don't think he was at all embarrassed.  I think he was proud as hell.   A guess. 

If there WAS a personal message being delivered to her father, I think it was this: "dad, i recognize our incredibly complex relationship is something else entirely to the outside world. It's a caricature.  And here is that caricature."

So.  Good.  Take the poll.  We start at noon sharp.

Do you know something about Ireland's parentage that the rest of us don't...?

Yes, haha.   I brain farted my way into suggesting DeNiro was Ireland's father, in the intro.  It has been fixed.   But who knows, MAYBE I WAS RIGHT THE FIRST TIME. 

My mom always says something like, "Comedy equals tragedy plus time." She's pretty funny - it's the one compliment my dad can give her since they've been bitterly divorced for almost 20 years. There's a long history of sardonic humor on her side of the family (we're Jewish, natch). I take myself too seriously, so I would probably be pretty stung by my kids biting back the way Ireland did, but when I make fun of my mom's quirks and foibles, she laughs heartily. I think if you're a truly funny person, you know how to handle personal insults, especially when they're about things that happened long ago. Alec Baldwin may generally be a pretty big a-hole, but if he can take it as well as he dishes it out, then he earns a few points in my book. And you're right, these roasts are brutal. He knew what he was getting himself into, and he and Ireland probably also understood that they were making fun of a caricature. Also, FWIW, I have seen how custody battles have pushed reasonable people to the brink, so while I can't excuse how Alec treated his daughter (it was awful), I can understand how frustrated and isolated he might have felt.

Also, and I think this is key, none of us really knows what the relationship truly is 

Someone in my Twitter timeline shared a link to a website about books written by police officers. The ads on the site are for a service one can hire to do one's homework. 

Excellent.   This reminds me of one of the best stunt stories I edited.  It is by Laura Blumenfeld.  There is an inside story I will tell at the end of it.   It is short: 



His name is Al. Just Al. Everything in this business is done on a first-name basis, or so he says.

There are those who say Al is a genius, among the smartest people on Earth. They turn to him in their time of deepest, darkest need, when their term papers are due at the end of the semester. Around now, matter of fact.

Al ghostwrites research papers for college students with the money to pay him. He lives in New York, and much of his work is done for Co lumbia students. His training is in theoretical physics, but he has become an expert on everything.

"There are certain topics I prefer doing," Al says, in a confident tone, bordering on cocky hubris. "I can't stand writing papers in nonsensical subjects like education and curriculum theory; I like most of literature, but thank goodness I haven't had to do a 'Grapes of Wrath' paper in over a year now. The symbolism is so obvious. And 'The Great Gatsby,' that damn green light at the end of the dock . . ."

Mostly, Al likes his work. He doesn't like his clients, not all of them.

"I've always had more than my fair share of rich kids who either couldn't or wouldn't do the work; some of them have more money than is healthy for them, and I'm pleased to relieve them of some of it." He guesses that in the past 17 years he has written 5,000 papers. He does not guarantee grades, but says his work generally gets a B-plus or better.

He charges $ 12 a page ordinarily, but the charge goes up at the end of a semester. "I try not to take advantage of a customer," he says, "but when they drive up in a new Lexus, the meter starts running quicker than it would otherwise."

Al isn't much concerned about the ethics of what he does. He figures that's his clients' problem.

"I always tell them that the paper is sold to them for reference and research purposes only. If they do anything else with it, I don't know about it." He figures that protects him, legally.

Al doesn't see himself doing this forever. He's a highly skilled draftsman and printmaker and has started branching out into freelance illustration. He has also written a hilarious, surreal novel. It is with an agent, but while everyone who has seen it concedes it is well written and very, very funny, it is burdened with obscure cultural references. Still, Al thinks it will soon be published.


If this story seems a little lame, well, you get what you pay for. Reporter Laura Blumenfeld was too busy to do it herself, so The Post paid Al $ 24 to write it, at his going rate of $ 12 a page. By the way, Al somehow neglected to mention one fact: In many states, including New York, Maryland and Virginia, campus ghostwriting for profit is against the law.



Okay, so here is the inside-story postscript. 

When Laura Blumenfeld came back from New York after interviewing Al, she was depressed.   He was full of himself.  Not that interesting.  She didn't want to do the story.  I told her she HAD to do the story.   She pouted.   And then she said, jokingly,  we should just pay HIM to do the story. 

A terrible silence descended. 

Yes!  I said.   Yes, that is exactly what we should do.   Under your byline.  

She was aghast.   "But it will suck," she said. 

Yes!   Yes, it will suck, I said.  

So we did it.   And it kinda sucked. 

Because it was an unusual story, I needed to send it up to the top editors for approval.   The managing editor, Bob Kaiser, stopped in afterwards.  He loved the story, he said.   There was only one problem:  Laura's byline could not appear at the top. 

"It HAS to appear," I said.  "That is the whole engine of the story."

It can't, he said.  We don't lie to readers. 

We're not lying, I said!  We tell the whole story at the end!

We cannot lie EVEN FOR ONE SECOND, he said. 

Indignantly, I told him that that meant we would have to kill the story! 

"okay," he said, and walked out. 

I had a deadline in one hour, and a hole on the page. 

Desperation forced creativity.   I had to come up with a solution.  I did. 

Bylines in the Post in those days had two lines.   The first, in normal size bold type gave the author's name" "By Laura Blumenfeld."  Under it, in tiny agate, it said "Washington Post Staff Writer." Everyone ignored that line, of course.    

I changed that tiny line to "Not really.  But Who Reads This Line?"  

That was okay with The Post.  And that is how it appeared. 

You have a single-use time machine. Do you... - prevent the rise of Adolf Hitler? - prevent the rise of Donald Trump? Discuss

Depends if you are a globalist humanitarian or a solipsist living in the US right now.    For most the answer is easy. 

Trump will likely get his comeuppance sooner than later.  Speaking of which, if you did not read Doonesbury on Sunday, you must do so now. 

Why do we give credence to articles in The Post claiming that scientists on Earth can determine the makeup of a planet's atmosphere when the planet is 120 light years away? I realize that scientists and newspaper reporters must "publish or die", but I simply cannot trust the veracity of claims that can't be validated. Closer to home, I'd like to see unequivocal evidence for how the moon actually got there AND how the Earth got its water.

I suspect you are showing some ignorance. 

You are correct in assuming that the insults are created by staff writers.

i suspect not all.   Comics really like to write their own stuff. 

Any thoughts? She was smart, well-informed, insightful, interesting to listen to, and often entertaining. I thought she was just a little too insider to be a truly great journalist but I admired her personally and for her role in shaping NPR. I had the pleasure of meeting her once and she was gracious and charming in person, as well.

I think she was really good.  She had a gift that not that many journalists have:  She made people feel at ease.   I met her a couple of times at book shows.  She was gracious, especially to the non-famous. 

I saw a clip on the web yesterday in which tRump referred to a group of people, one of which was his VP, "Mike Pounce." Is the man drunk, high, senile, or stupid?

Nah, it's a verb that just spills easily from his lips. 

Christopher Ingraham described Red Lake County MN as the worst place to live in America, yet he's visited and actually moved there. You did a similar story about Battle Mountain NV (the armpit of the US I think you described the place), and I seem to remember you visited there but have you come to the conclusion you should move there? Please tell us more about your experience with your article vs. Ingraham's experience.

Why on Earth did he move there?  

I might move to BM if the alternative were Pyongyang. 

I watched it when it aired, and Alec was laughing his butt off throughout. After she was done, they hugged and he said something like "that was hilarious" and had a big smile on his face. So it appears that he can take it as much as he can dish it out. Roasts have definitely gotten too mean, but Ed Norton showed how it should be done in the prior week's roast of Bruce Willis (where Demi Moore was the surprise roaster). It was about half funny--but not lethal--jabs at Bruce and half self-effacing. Check it out. And let me know if you like it so I can find out if I had a good sense of humor.

Will do. 

Trump is awful. Trump is racist. Trump is horrible. But without the amoral, craven actions of McConnell, Trump's damage would be very limited. But now we have over 150 (!) judges appointed by Trump (but really, Trump doesn't know half of them, it is not really Trump appointing these judges) with LIFETIME appointments who will ensure that whatever damage done by Trump and the Republicans is longlasting. McConnell had an opportunity to stand up to Trump. To stand for his co-equal branch of government. It is disgusting.

Can't quibble with any of this . I chose McConnell in the poll. 

This was just another example of decreasing civility.

Thanks for weighing in, Pat.  

No, I get that view completely.  It's valid. 

You saw VP Pounce's tale of being bitten by American Pharoah? Looks like it was probably a lie on Pounce's part but good on the horse for sticking it to the man.

I initially thought that, too, but I think there is evidence he was telling the truth. 

Remember the Good Old Days when we thought George W. Bush was the worst president ever? I cried when W was re-elected. I don't know what I'll do if Trump is re-elected.

The only good thing I recall from Bush's reelection was that great youtube video of Americans apologizing to the world.

I graduated from a Jesuit high school (not Georgetown Prep, but one very similar, both geographically and demographically) in 1991 -- this was a few years after the Pope of Grope, but it was close enough that I know the 1980s, Jesuit-bro/drink some 'skis archetype VERY well. I guarantee this guy did what he is being accused of, and some more stuff that has been buried in the past. I know this because I HATED the bro-ski crew, not because I hated the drinking -- I quite liked that part myself -- but because of the frat-house behavior, and the sense of entitlement with females, that went along with it. It's one of the reasons I couldn't get the hell out of high school fast enough. We're probably stuck with the guy, but I have zero doubt he perjured himself during his confirmation hearing. I would bet my lungs on it.

Me, too. 

The post that follows was sent in by someone making the acid, sarcastic point that the company should have gone all the way and included blood stains.

From the forgotten attachment department, URL branch

Yeah, to me these are awful.  The story is clickbait, the "fashions" are shameless attempts to draw attention by exploiting unimaginable tragedy.  I see no overriding public message of any value. 

This reminds me of something from my yoot.  When I was at Tropic, a competing magazine did a fashion spread about a new clothing line featuring swastikas.    (It might have been the Fort Lauderdale paper, but I'm not sure I have that right.) The headline was "Clothed In Controversy."

It. Did. Not. Go. Over. Well. 

I left my family at home and went to a professional meeting across the country. Casual conversation with a man at the meeting revealed that we had a similar list of weird restaurants to try in the area. So we planned lunch that day and dinner later in the week. At lunch, we completely hit it off. Our senses of humor are the same, we have a lot of interests in common, we talked about absolutely everything and missed the first afternoon session because we lost track of time. It was hilarious and wonderful. I don't think either of us were expecting that kind of connection to come out of nowhere - we are both in our fifties. And at the end, knowing that we each are happily married, we concluded that we could not have dinner. We avoided each other for the rest of the conference, waving cheerily at a distance and staying away. Please tell me we did the right thing. And that I should not have found myself crying in the shower this morning.

You did the right thing, and you should have found yourself crying in the shower. 

Whenever people talk about the wedding industrial complex, the assumption is that it sprung full-formed from the head of Madison Avenue. But it seems probable, as returns to education increased over the last few decades and as college graduates were more likely/able to move for "good jobs", that we ended up with an UMC cohort that lived far away from several friends and family. At that point, couples simply *couldn't* invite close friends and family from their hometown to drive 30 minutes to the local church or lodge for cake and punch. It is, in fact, entirely reasonable that the hosts of weddings would then feel obligated to feed guests a full meal after they had driven multiple hours or flown in. It is also reasonable that the rise of two-earner couples and dispersed families would make big potlucks burdensome. Once a couple makes a commitment to pay to feed 80+ people (and it really doesn't take a very large family or friend group to reach that point) and requires a space to do that (including luxurious amenities like chairs and air-conditioning), the budget enters the multi-thousands. Add more people, the venue prices rise, and the associated meal plans do too. Add any kind of bar service, same. Cutting out fancy centerpieces and finding dresses off-the-rack can trim expenses on the edges, but the bulk of the expenses are food, drink, and seats. Thassit.

I read this all the way through and have only one question: Why have a wedding?  

It is absolutely possible and common to spend too much on a wedding, but I answered "wedding" in your poll last week because I got married at 25 (in 2011) and spent about $17K in the DC area, and would do it again but assume prices have gone up. We were lucky and only went into minimal credit card debt; most of the expenses were split between our savings and generous parents from both sides. The only place we splurged was on food; we went for a high end caterer that was $80/head for dinner, hors d'oeuvres, and open bar (inclusive of hard alcohol - my dad wanted to drink a scotch at his daughter's wedding). We had about 115 guests, 75% of which was family at the cousin level and closer. The flowers, photos, dress, rings, and DJ were all the cheapest professionals we could find, as we didn't want to ask friends/family to work for free when they should be partying. I picked up craft supplies for basic decorations online. Our venue was about as cheap as could accommodate the party size and still allow us to serve alcohol. A backyard wedding is a nice idea, but who has that kind of real estate available (and as came up in Hax's Hootenanny - who's going to cover the portapotty and landscaping costs)? Obviously having a big party is a completely optional thing under any circumstance, but we opted for it because it was the only opportunity we've ever had to bring our family together. We have amicable divorces and remarriages, birth parents, half siblings, and beloved-but-rarely seen aunts all over the East Coast, and for us, the money was worth it to have everyone in the same place at the same time, just once. We did a pretty good job at paring things down; almost everyone in the photos who is still alive is still in our lives. I guess I don't think everything has to be an investment or a "smart" decision to be worth it. I completely respect your disapproval of the Wedding Industrial Complex, but man, I'm really grateful we were able to have the wedding we had.

Why have a wedding?

I'm not sure why I was so annoyed with the wedding discussion last week, but I was, so here we go: The mythical $50 wedding does not exist, unless all you are doing is paying the license fee. If you want anything more, it's going to cost you. Assuming 50 people, even if you're buying everyone a McDonalds value meal, you're looking at $500. Add on a grocery store sheet cake, some beer and a cheap champagne toast for everyone, and you've doubled it. If you don't have the space (or septic system) to handle 50 people, you're gonna need to pay for a location. And probably rent furniture and dishes. The places where you can cut costs generally create more work for the couple (especially the bride) and maybe their friends. Even grocery store flowers aren't free, and you still need someone to transport and arrange them. In no other situation is a person told "Take on this enormous task that you've never done before, but make sure you don't spend too much money or act stressed, or else you'll be a punch line! And don't forget to look radiant doing it!". It's, frankly, sexist. Thats not to say that there aren't places where costs can be cut (NO ONE WANTS WEDDING FAVORS), but if a couple can afford to spend a little money on their wedding and does so in the name of reducing stress and throwing a good party for their nearest and dearest, let them!!!

Reducing stress????  

You think big weddings REDUCE stress?

Question about a scene in the Marx Brothers pre-code film Horsefeathers: Chico has Thelma Todd in a clinch on a sofa, and they break. Chico says, "Lady I like you! You've got something but I don't know what it is." Cut to Groucho, leering from behind a door, who says "If he thinks I'm gonna tell he's crazy." A British friend says this is merely about Groucho trying to keep Thelma to himself, but I maintain it is very clearly a VD joke. Your thoughts?

Please note that Groucho played "Professor Wagstaff."

I never quite understood this joke.  VD makes more sense than any alternative explanation, though.   I had assumed this was a joke about Chico's naivete, and the joke was about what was under Thelma's skirt, but that makes less sense.  Anyone?

Here's my take, at least based on answers as of about 1 pm Eastern on Monday. Question 1: McConnell is worse because he is more effective and competent. Question 2: Susan Collins is worse because she helped get Kavanaugh onto SCOTUS. Question 3: Epstein, definitely. He preyed on children; Weinstein preyed on adults. Question 4: Poll-takers gave the wrong answer here. The insufficient attention to climate change comes from the insufficient attention/control over the damage to the federal judiciary and other institutions that Der Gropenführer is causing.

I agree with you on all the answers, but have two additions:  I think there is another way to look at the Epstein-Weinstein split.  I think it's not THAT cut and dried.   Epstein victimized children by coercing them into pseudo-consensual situations. He was basically a pimp to underage girls.   It was revolting.   Weinstein is a rapist.   I still go with Epstein, but had to think about it.  

Susan Collins, hands down.  She is the one person who could have prevented this, was in a position to prevent it, would not have been criticized for preventing it, had an obligation to her gender to prevent it.   She cravenly chose party over decency.  She sucks.   Lisa Bloom?  A lawyer, debasing herself to get a client.  Easier to understand. 

By the way, I continue to argue that Kavanaugh's nomination  shouldn't have been doomed based on the evidence the Senate was allowed to hear about whether he was a sexual assaulter in high school.   He should have been voted down because of his utterly disgusting, non-judicial demeanor during the hearings.  He did not show the temperament of a judge.  Gone. 

I just have one question. How does the alleged assault happen? Can you explain how two friends can cause another man's member to go into the hand of an unconsenting woman? For the life of me, I can't figure out how two guys could grab a third by the privates and drag him over to contact a fourth person, without everyone in the room being fully cognizant.

I agree.  It leads to another question, which I had and still have. 

How did someone write that tweet?  What was he or she THINKING?  There is a piece online suggesting it was written by Robin Pogrebin, one of the writers of the book.  I don't know if that is true.  

But whoever wrote it -- what did they think they were doing?   I tried to imagine it was someone attempting to use irony and sarcasm together: Creating an obviously ridiculous precede to a more complex thought.   I mean "drunken dorm party" does not sound like something harmless, right on its face.   But the second half of the tweet gave no hint of such an intentional juxtaposition.  

I have no IDEA what that tweeter, whoever it was, was trying to do. 

Really, I could go either way. Trump has more power to do immediate and serious harm, from ordering nuclear strikes or otherwise starting wars to refusing to step down when he's impeached or defeated (and though they're hopefully relatively few in numbers, I have no doubt he has armed supporters who would attempt to back his position by force). But he's driven by insecurities, ignorance, and emotional instability. McConnell, on the other hand, knows exactly what he's doing, and he's driven by a naked desire for power. His undermining of majority rule, stacking the judiciary, rewriting the rules of Congress, and switching principles depending on whether he's in the minority or the majority have potential for long-term negative effects on how our democracy functions. In the end, I picked McConnell for the more insidious nature of his evil. On a related note, focusing attention on climate change will do no good if the institutions needed to combat it---the courts, the EPA, NOAA, the scientific and economic infrastructure in general--have been so eroded that they're powerless to do much about it.

By your logic, McConnell is clearly worse.  And I agree with that logic. 

These claims are hypotheses, and scientists work from them. You seem to be confusing "claims that can't be validated" with "stuff I don't understand."


Have you rethought any of your imperialist assumptions about food from the prior chat? Or talked to Tim Carman about it?

No, remind me what they were. 

He didn't call it the worst place in America. He said it was the most boring place in America, based on a metric of scenic beauty -- it's flat, treeless, and lacking in open water (streams, rivers, or ironically lakes). But he went there, found it has really nice people, and decided scenic beauty isn't everything. This doesn't remotely describe what Gene found wrong with BM...

Still.   Aren't there LOTS of places with nice people?  Places that have a river?  

This sounds like a stunt! 

I encountered a disparaging reference to your Battle Mountain is the Armpit story in this book.  "Battle Mountain is a small place, population 3,600, an outpost in the desert. It has three bars, a brothel, no stoplight, and bears the unfortunate title 'armpit of America,' the bestowal of a cruel joker journalist at The Washington Post."

I wonder if he read the story.   I am thinking not.   It did a dramatic turnabout. 

The late great Nora Ephron, back when she was an actual journalist, put this perfectly: "The company felt that it would be controversial, and that it would sell. I am continually surprised at the inability of some to distinguish controversial from offensive."

Was she talking about the Nazi fashion, specifically. 

Wish I could remember the author or story title - man uses a time machine to kill Hitler in infancy. Returns to the present to a German dictatorship ruling the world. A dictator took over Germany without using anti Semitism, unites all Germans, and, as they conquer Europe, their brilliant scientists develop the atomic bomb, USSR is conquered, then the rest of the world. You never know . . .

Interesting.  I am working on a similar-but-different themed short story. 

Gene - Are you really so out of the loop you don't know the backstory of why Post reporter Christopher Ingraham and his family moved to Red Lake, Minnesota? Well, his book comes out today, maybe you should read it.

I will!   

At the time of this writing more people believe Trump to be worse, which only tells me that *not enough people* are paying attention to how truly destructive McConnell has been in his tenure as Senate Leader. The man boasted about about never working with Obama (stopping legislation from getting to the floor); obstructed Obama's right to seat a SCOTUS justice, forever altering the balance on a court people now no longer trust b/c of that; and has hamstrung every possible investigation into Russia (among other things, like gun reform). McConnell essentially stopped Obama from mentioning Russian interference prior to the 2016 election by threatening to make it a partisan issue and has since refused to do anything about it in Congress. *All* of Trump's awful instincts could be curtailed if McConnell had a *modicum* of integrity; instead, McConnell weakens our democracy while funneling Russian money into KY.

Totally agreed. 

And if a Supe died two months before the election, do you have any doubt McC would drive through a new nominee, steamrolling the Dems in the Senate, ignoring what he did to Merrick Garland. 

Hi Gene, During a conversation this weekend with my wife, it came up that I don't wet my toothbrush before I brush my teeth. I don't wet it before I put on the toothpaste and I don't wet it after I put on the toothpaste. She thought that was rather odd. I was never taught to wet my toothbrush and I have no idea why one would need to do so. And my teeth are just fine. Is wetting a toothbrush really a thing? If so, why? And what am I missing without it? Thank you.

I have never NOT wet the toothbrush.   It delivers more froth that way, no?

At least one Epstein victim says he forcibly raped her when she was 15. Do you doubt there are others? 

Didn't know that.  

Watched it last night and laughed about 90% of the way through. Some cringe-worthy zings were definitely thrown around but everyone who roasts or who gets roasted understands nothing is off limits and it's all for fun. Folks complaining about this are the "social justice warrior" "faux outrage" troop Adam Corolla jabbed about last night.

I think that's too harsh.  Many people who truly understand humor have areas they feel are verboten.   

I like Jerry Seinfeld and have enjoyed his Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee show, but something in the last season has stuck with me. In one of the last episodes of this season he goes on an extended rant about how bleeped-comedian isn't funny, is a jerk, and will never do well in this business. It's fine that Jerry thinks this, even says it, but to take a good chunk of his program for the rant? I'm not sure bleeping the comedian's name helps the case. A quick search shows the internet thinks it's Bobcat Goldthwaite. It all seems like such a petty punching-down action. Seinfeld seems a bit cold at times, but this struck me as another level worse.

I think you will find that 90 percent of comedians are "a little cold."  You have to be.  

No, she was talking about a venal publishing company. I'm trying to remember the name of the book. Her point was that using "controversy" as a PR stunt was misusing the term "controversy."


With your colleague’s Baggage Check chat? Her intro makes it sound like it’s on the chopping block. I usually read yours and then hers as a double shot on my Tuesdays. (Your chat makes me feel like we’re all pretty screwed up, which is probably true. Then her chat makes me feel Iike that’s fine if we’re screwed up because we’re all going to be okay anyway.)

I believe Doc Andrea Bonior was one of the talented victims of the end of Express. 

Her chat may be up in the air.  I hope she keeps it.  I liked it.  I believe she IS doing the chat today, though. 

No, he made a life decision. YOUR article was a stunt.

Good.  Then I approve. 

And yes, my article was DEFINITELY a stunt.  So is my upcoming book.   I like stunts. 

Though the first reports of the attack in Saudi Arabia alleged they were perpetrated with drones, the fact is that has not been confirmed and has even been contradicted by some official sources. Why do this paper and the rest of the media continue to call it a drone strike despite the complete lack of certainty as to the means of the attack?

I don't know.  It is a fair question.   

My brother was an asshat when I came out 20+ years ago. Told me he was "accepting" as long as I didn't upset our parents. Took me years to get my mom to accept my now husband. Flash forward a decade; his daughter comes out and marries a woman. They have an adorable kid now. My brother is all unicorns and rainbows for his daughter. I'm still pissed about 20ish years ago when he didn't really support me. (For the record, I suspected 2 of my nieces were gay and one reason I came out was so that I would be first in the immediate family and not leave that for either of them to have to go thru. I was right about both of them.) My dad's gone, my mom is mid-90s, and my brother now thinks he's the hero of the family for paving the way for his lesbian daughter...even though her cousin has two kids, one older than my brother's granddaughter. Who's the asshat? My obvious brother or me for my useless anger after all this time?

Drop the anger.  It does no one any good.  

Damn, all of those choices made me feel dirty. Surprisingly, I chose McConnell over Trump because McTurtle has a longer half-life and supposedly should have put a stop to some of Trumps shenanigans. What a weak, sad human being. As for climate change, I don't understand how people - anyone at all - cannot be concerned for the future of their children (whether they be human or animal). I know people who don't want to have kids simply because they feel it would be sending them into a death spiral on this f-d planet.

Some people have made the valid point that fixing choice two would fix choice one. 

I'm guessing I'm not the first person to ask if you have a take on the Shane Gillis situation. Was SNL right to let him go?

Obviously, as is clear from the intro, I almost always side with the comic.  Comedy is designed to push envelopes and cross lines; it would be possible to pull almost anything out of a comic's past and accuse him or her of something dreadful.  I realize she has far more license to do this than Gillis did, but Margaret Cho does LOTS of exaggerated Asian accents. 

The problem here, and why I can't really take a stance well, is that I haven't seen any video of what he does, other than that kind of lame riff on how he hates Chinese restaurants.  It's crude but more to the point, it's pretty unfunny, even for an impromptu podcast.   So I don't know several salient facts: How good IS he?   And just how relentlessly tasteless has he been in the past?  

I certainly think SNL has the right to rescind his contract, and while they really do have an obligation to give comics the benefit of the doubt -- they understand the business -- they also have the right to say, whoa, this is an ongoing distraction we don't need. 

Absent more info, I'm not qualified to comment.  

I imagined that they'd keep him, and his first time on the air, he'd do spot-on arguably offensive impersonations of black people, Jews, the Irish, Latinos, Italians, etc.   That would have been daring, and just maybe made a valuable point. 

I always thought that, if I could go back in time to prevent something or other, I'd prevent the assassination of JFK. But then someone, writing for The Smithsonian, wrote a great piece on the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. He stated that JFK's assassination galvanized Congressional support to Apollo. Without it, we most likely would never have landed on the moon. This has made me rethink my whole time travel, correct a wrong, decision.

It also was pretty directly responsible for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

'Massive semen explosion after blaze hits bull artificial insemination facility, firefighters forced to dodge "projectiles"' 

"Major blow" may well be editorial subversion. 

Like most others, still trying to sort out the Democratic candidates. However, would you agree seeing Trump followed by a black women and the child of two immigrants, Senator Harris, would be a way of saying “this who we really are” to the world? Of course, Trump would likely to skip the inauguration in a pout regardless of his successor.

I would bet tens of thousands of dollars that whoever the winner is, if not Trump, he will skip the inauguration.  He is a pouting infant. 

The Far Side might be coming back.

It might be some odd, empty tease, but that would not be like Larson.   I await eagerly. 

So what's the story on the Express? It doesn't surprise me that it's gone. It actually surprised me that it lasted as long as it did. But to shut it down with zero notice to the employees? That's pretty sleazy. And why wasn't the Express ever merged into the Post newspaper itself like the web site -- originally created as an entirely separate corporate entity -- was merged years ago?

I don't have any good inside information on this .  I did once work for a newspaper in NYC -- the Daily Mirror -- that informed all of us employees that we no longer employed in this fasihon:  We arrived at the building one Sunday, and it was padlocked. 

I really liked Express, and it went out with one of the great tabloid front pages of all time. 

This is not really a fair question. This compares someone who made a political calculation, and possibly even believed that Kavanaugh was innocent or that acting like a drunken high school jerk is forgivable after 25 years, with someone who made a cynical choice to both support and enable a serial rapist. I certainly hope that the people of Maine give her the boot next time around, but I don't think the comparison here is at all fair, especially considering the enormous behind-the-scenes pressure/threats she must have been getting from Moscow Mitch (Putin's bitch).

I disagree, for reasons I have stated. 

Why did you have one then? Even if you went to the courthouse, you had one. You were married.

That is a marriage, not a wedding.   

It rinses off all of the crap that might have accumulated since last you used it!

But I don't think that's why.   I think it makes the paste work better. 

I hate Susan Collins. Like, despise her. I have given way more money to get 2020 opponent (go Sara Gideon!) than makes sense. But this phrase does not sit well with me. Are we saying that had Collins been in the same circumstance but was male that Mr. Collins would be less culpable just by virtue of being male? Last time I checked there are DOZENS of senators (including some from swing states) who cast votes needed to confirm Kavanaugh but we let them slide on it because they’re men and we shouldn’t expect any better from them?

I can't really contest your point. 

I love the idea of just putting all the silverware in the drawer without sorting! I wish I had thought of it! I already do the sock thing, and I only make my bed if I'm having people over. Some of the other ones were gross, but the silverware and socks make life so much easier!

I am going to do the socks next week.   This is in reference to this column. 

You know why some people don't believe scientist about stuff like global warming? Because scientists used to believe the sun revolved around the Earth. Thassit.

Nah, scientists didn't really believe that.  Religionists believed that.   It was scientists who began to question it. 

This latest Caitlin Gibson article is a blockbuster

yeah, this is a terrifying topic.   Cait has nailed it. 

Do you hate all parties? or just weddings? But to answer your question, a wedding is party where most of the invitees will make an effort to come giving far-flung people the opportunity to catch up, drink, eat, and sometimes participate in/follow cultural traditions of importance to them, for a purpose, and on someone else's dime.

Assuming you are a person of fairly modest means, is it worth $30,000?

Was not that bad!

It was pretty tepid.  I would not have run it, otherwise. 

Has a history of hemming and hawing on controversial issues and then tending to vote on the wrong side. The Kavanaugh vote was just the most egregious in a long line of such situations.

She gets "very concerned."  Her leadership must hold her in contempt. 

I don't wet it beforehand either, I rinse it afterwards. Had never heard of wetting it first until today.

You are an animal. 

I’m not quite persuaded Trump is the worst President ever, but Moscow Mitch is very clearly the worst Majority Leader ever.

Yes.  He is anti-American. 

I adore YouTube. I came across the subject of megalithic walls and have to conclude that it would have been impossible for bronze-age people to build them. Before you, again, refer to me as "ignorant", please take some time in the future to watch a few of these videos. This subject is important because, if these structures were created more than 12,000 years ago, wouldn't that throw the entire Old Testament timetable out of whack?

The entire Old Testament timetable?

Your brother, no question. My own experience coming out to my family was nowhere near as toxic as yours, but I feel for you. That said, Gene is right about dropping the anger. Trust me, your brother would probably be happy to hear he hurt you that deeply. Don't give him the satisfaction.

Also, marinating in anger and resentment hurts only you. 

McConnell is evil incarnate, Trump is just magnificently stupid

Trump is not just magnificently stupid.  He is also magnificently infantile.  The Trump Blimp is the perfect effigy of him.  

I agree with you. I truly believe that he did all that stuff as a teenager, but I do not think that being an asshat before the age of 21 means you’ll be an asshat forever. What turned me against him was his outburst at the hearings that the Democrats wuz out to get him. On a similar note, while I don’t like Clarence Thomas’ positions in most areas, I do think that the whole Anita Hill thing was overblown. The way people talk about it now makes it seem like he was a rapist. For crine out loud — he was a socially awkward guy trying to be cool to get an attractive woman to like him.

I mostly agree with you re Thomas, but there was a complicating factor, and it is significant.  At the time he was hitting on his employees, he was head of the EEOC, as I recall.  That would be like the head of the civil rights commission making racial jokes.  

Makes Hamlet seem impulsive.


I once met a guy who told me he runs a company that does this for college students. He started it in college with his then girlfriend. They trade off their very famous alma mater, but they hire other students to write the papers, and they make the profits. They are both wealthier than most people will ever be (successful careers, family wealth), but they still run this little company (you can find it online) as a little side business. I don't think the students ever get caught because the papers are all original, so there are no plagiarism issues, it's just that the students are...cheating. Are they just filling a market need or is this an immoral enterprise?

It's immoral.   It's actually a form of plagiarism: You are taking someone else's work and passing it on as your own.  

Hi chatters, I'm Gene's producer, Yu. Thank you to those who are submitting links by including the HTML code. Unfortunately, our submission box doesn't take HTML, so please go ahead and just paste in the URL. I will hyperlink it for you. 

Okay, we're done here.  Next week, same time, same place. 

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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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