Chatological Humor with Gene Weingarten: Btfsplk

Jul 21, 2020

You asked for it and you got it. Gene holds weekly mini-chats every Tuesday at 12 p.m. ET, where he takes your questions about what's happening in the country — and anything else you want to discuss.

Here is Gene's latest column.

Here is this week's poll.

Good afternoon.   We're going to hop right into the chat without further ado, except for a little ado, after which I will bid you adieu until the chat begins.    

A few people looked at the art for this week's column and wondered why Alex Fine was sucking up to me by drawing me as a skinny beanpole, something I am not.    There is an answer!   Alex's art is a parody of a certain character from the funny pages drawn by a famous cartoonist a long time ago.     First person to identify the famous cartoonist, the name of his strip, the name of the the character and the reason it is appropriate for this cartoon gets called a stable genius comics historian right here in this chat.  

Please take the poll.   We start at noon sharp.  Adieu. 

Al Capp drew Lil' Abner, which included the character Joe Btfsplk, whose main schtick was having perpetually bad luck to the point that he had a permanent rain cloud over his head. Relevant here for the bizarre confluence of symptoms that would seem to point to COVID-19, but were each their own mostly benign issues. Also, not a comics historian, but was able to Google search it in 10 mins or so after realizing that the rain cloud was the more important feature in the pic than the shoes and pants.

That's it.  Nailed it.   You are a stable genius comics historian, much like the poet Amy Lago.  

seems he's targeting Democratically controlled cities. I don't think this is going to turn things around for him, but I'm appalled and so angry that he is and may be legal for him to send thugs in to crack protester head.

It is terribly scary.   He is acting like a man preparing to seize the country, declare martial law, end elections, machine-gun democrats, close the borders. ... you know, Gilead.   

"Border patrol" is being deployed to Democrat-run cities within 100 miles of a border, in order to literally snatch people off the street without due process, violently attack protesters who are just standing there and talking, and terrorize the locals.

"Chicago the Scary Lawless Place" is a symbol for the right wingers, which is why they're next (see also all the gun nut arguments) but it occurs to me that Baltimore and DC are clearly going to be on any short list for this kind of treatment.

Those women in Portland who said "all those times in junior high school English class when you read Anne Frank, and you said you wouldn't have closed your eyes, okay, well, let's go" are on the right side of history.

I have lived my adult life largely online. There are maybe ten local people I trust enough to link arms with, and if I'm being honest, I think maybe four of them would show up if called. Calling our representatives and voting is no longer enough, obviously, but I don't want to waste time on meaningless/futile gestures. What's next?

What's next happens in four months.  Until then we should all keep up the pressure.  It's all in the service of November 3.  

cognitive test? I mean flip, flap, flop, flirt, flout, flick, flaunt, and flu gets you most of the way there without even worrying about a second syllable or a word that doesn't start with "fl". Why isn't it as many words as you can that begin with X? Or at least restrict the words to being Scrabble eligible so that you can't fill in with names. This test seems to be set up to make the taker feel better.

I would include "florp," a word I believe I invented in 1997.   It is a verb describing what a breast does.   

Should have been a winner -- the only one that made me laugh out loud. I liked 5 and 6 too, some others were not quite funny-- like someone trying too hard.

I think these results were quite good, and you are the first person to correctly identify the two best.  Clapclapclap.   The simple visual and absurdity of being chased by taxidermists elevates that one.   And 5&6 was beautiful judo.   The next best in order are chameleons, Kanye, tapas and car park.  The only lame one is loads of money. 

Most of these were fairly weak, except the last group, which were all a little funny. My favorite was the tightest hat competition bc why would such a thing exist? I imagine the contestants, average people in street clothes, showing off awkwardly tight-fitting hats. Some of them so tight they must be forcefully removed - perhaps with helpers backstage....

You are tragically wrong about this batch being weak BUT you are not a total dolt because "tight hat" is excellent, for the same reason taxidermists was.   A very funny concept.  That should have been my choice #4. 

Joe Btfsplk

CVS emailed me yesterday that pulse oximeters are back in stock. Should I buy one? Or two?

Buy two.   I am hoarding mine mostly so I can give them to people who might really need it. 

Trump has again announced that he might not "accept" election results that go against him. No matter what happens, he will remain president from Nov. 3 to Jan. 20. How much damage can he do then?

I think even this ghastly assemblage of far righties on the SCOTUS will not allow a one-man takeover.    

I was wondering about your test for covid-19 and whether you had an easy or difficult experience. I wish I had the antibody test because when I was checked at a local hospital (as a precondition for another procedure), I got the full nostril treatment. The nurse jabbed the long swabs way way up, practically to the brain, or so it felt. Even though it was for only a few seconds for each nostril the experience was so painful and startling that it brought tears to my eyes. The results were negative, as I expected. I’ve got a question: the other day you tweeted about a no doubt terrible Trump commercial, but when I tried the link there was nothing. What was the commercial?

My experience was super easy.  Did it through One Medical, to which I belong.   Appointment made in two days.  Drive through.  Very brief blood draw without leaving the car.  Results emailed within 24 hours.  

Trump  himself linked to the commercial, then took the commercial down within a few hours of my tweet (I claim no credit.) The Twitter consensus was that they got serious legal blowback from the band Linkin Park, whose music it used, probably without permission, but that's just speculation.   In my tweet, I wrote:  "This commercial is stunningly awful. It is antisemitic, promiscuously hostile, misanthropic, misogynistic, incomprehensible, illiterate, racist, and would only be appealing to morons, so he's probably trying for his base. "

It basically was a series of images of Trump looking cruel resolute and toxically manly, along with images of power, like fighter jets. Interspersed were images of supposedly evil, hated figures like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. Schumer was wearing a kente cloth shawl, which resembled a Jewish prayer shawl, managing to be simultaneously racist and antisemitic. There were recent mages of suffering in America and Trump looking as though he was intent on fixing them, though this suffering has been on his watch. There was a clip of his awful inaugural speech. The whole thing was utterly incoherent and had zero substance, no promises, no pledges, no policy.

I know nothing else about this ad; it might even be old. It was truly awful, and typical of what you'd expect from his campaign.

How unbelievably selfish is RBG? She could have retired sometime early in Obama's second term when she was already in her 80s. But if something happens to her as late as the morning of January 20, Mitch will still have the Senate confirm her replacement by noon and the next 30 years will see everything she accomplished unwound. Her legacy of selfishness will also be the conservatives' biggest triumph.

Are you serious?   This idea is meritless.  

According to Mary Trump, Donald felt humiliated as a boy when the whole family laughed at him after his younger brother dumped a bowl of mashed potatoes on his head because Donald had been bullying him. Many years later he seemed very annoyed when the family all laughed at the story. I wonder how Trump would react to being called "Mr. Potato Head"?

It would probably not do it, so let's not call him Mr. Potato Head.   Or #MrPotatoHead.

heybatta heybatta

Washington Nationals

Unlikely champions, Check out the bling!

Diamond-encrusted and


Harper's still wondering

"Hey, where's my ring?"

Nicely done.  Perfect meter. 

In a recent issue of Parade magazine that listed the occupations of young celebrities-to-be there was this: “Taylor Swift picked praying mantis pods off the trees at her family’s Christmas tree farm from the time she was 5 to 10 years old. ‘We collected them so the bugs wouldn’t hatch inside people’s houses.’” This sounds familiar, yes?

There once was a "leader" named Trump,

whom half of us wanted to dump.

This bungling polemic,

ignored a pandemic,

so let's throw him out on his rump.

Bungling ... polemic?  Wrong word.    

How about "Bungling and vague / He ignored the black plague"

Ronny Jackson, the White House's former doctor who is on his way to representing Texas in Congress next year, said this week: "I don't particularly want my government telling me that I have to wear a mask. So, I think that's a choice that I can make." People like him would never substitute “can’t have an abortion” for “have to wear a mask.” Who’s “pro life” these days?

To me, the gigantic selfish irony of this position is that wearing a mask is not for YOUR protection, it is for the protection of others FROM you.  So long as the virus abounds, wearing a mask should be no more of a choice than should giving out drugs in a schoolyard.  It's not your right to harm others. 

For the OP who wanted to know why some drivers leave gaps between cars at signalled intersections: When I took defensive driving, I was told that when pulling up behind a car at a red light, so leave 2 car lengths between my car and the one in front, until there was at least 2 cars fully stopped behind me. Then to pull up to 1 can length behind the car in front of me. In the even the cars behind me would not stop on time, I would not hit the vehicle in front of me, or be pushed into the intersections, if I were the first car at the light. I would also have a means of escape if the vehicle which doesn't stop, was large and more destructive, i.e., dump truck. So, in large, it is to prevent me being killed by being pushed into an intersection, or from me having to pay for damaging the car in front of me, because of some guy on his phone, 3 cars behind me. So, yes, I tend to do this, most of the time, and you can suck on it as I won't stop. :)

Why don't you leave 6 car lengths between you?  Even safer in the event you might be rear-ended by a speeding cement mixer.  Or a James Bond villain with an armed nuclear warhead.  

I also suggest driving 4 miles an hour.  Even safer!   And wearing two helmets at all times in your car.  

I once knew a person who liked really big, heavy cars because she knew she was a lousy driver and wanted the protection of basically driving a bomb that would pulverize everyone else, but keep her relatively safe, in the inevitable event of an accident.  

If you're the NFL, don't you want Dan Snyder to be forced to sell the Washington football team? For 20 years, he has run the franchise into the ground, abused a once rabidly loyal fanbase to the point where opposing teams have more fans in the stands, and turned DC, a once reliable football town into a baseball and hockey town. DC is one of the biggest markets, and not having them as a contender at least semi-regularly presumably hurts the bottom line.

I don't think arrogance or incompetence or greed are legit legal reasons to revoke a license.   Personally I'd like the Washington Snydes to continue being owned by Snyder as long as he lives, and I wish him a long life.   I am a Giants fan. 

I love to read. I don't have much time to do it, but I try to set aside at least thirty minutes before going to sleep to fire up the Kindle (that sounds so artificial compared to "crack open a book") and read mostly fiction. I appreciate a well-crafted sentence, fully-developed characters, and a story that makes you think.

But, I could never get interested in poetry and feel I'm missing out on something. I had a great ninth-grade English teacher who knew how to reach distracted, pop-culture obsessed teenagers. This happened 35 years ago and it's one of the few things I remember from high school. While teaching a poetry unit one day, she displayed song lyrics on the overhead projector. I can't remember which artist she started with, possibly Dylan, but we dissected the lyrics in the same way we would a poem, which a well-written song should resemble. At that age, I thought that was more than cool, but, even then, I never had any patience for poetry. After reading a poem, I was always left with feeling like "What the eff did that even mean" even after reading it over and over.

Now that I'm an adult, I feel like I've missed out on something by ignoring poetry. I know that you are a big fan of poetry so I’m hopeful that you can steer me in the right direction. Which poets would you suggest for someone like me who wants to try again and has developed far more patience as an adult? I'm not sure if it would shape your answer, but my favorite book written by an American author, by a wide margin, is The Grapes of Wrath.

Read Billy Collins, but before you do, read this.  It is my favorite interview. 

So what's your pick for their new name? The Senators and the Federals, unique to the Nation's Capital, seem to be in the running.

The Congresspersons.   

The Clout.   

The Greys.     I like the Greys, homage to the Negro Leagues.


I'm starting to think that the regular rank and file military and its officers are the only thing that will stand in Herr Trump's way. The reason they are using DHS militia in these cities is that they are perhaps the most "koolaid drinker" force of all the federal forces. As a newer militia, its members are perhaps more about the mission and Trump's mission than the more traditional service branches. And how astonishing is it that we are even talking about this? It's truly terrifying. I also believe that more people would be out protesting if it weren't for the virus.

It IS terrifying.  He actually says what he's going to do!   "I won't accept it."   WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT IMPLY?

I think Trump is intentionally fibbing about this. He likes the idea that just talking about not accepting the results "makes lib's heads explode."

Maybe, even probably.   But he is a really desperate man.  I think he might sense that remaining president is the only thing keeping him out of prison.   

But aren't all cities Democratically controlled? Minus small towns. Look at an electoral map and pretty much every city, even in the reddest states, is an island of blue in a sea of red. People live in cities because they want to be a part of a community, as opposed to seeing themselves as lone settlers on the great plains, hence the Democratic control.

Very true.   A column I did long ago, when red and blue states was a new concept, compared the names of red counties and blue counties.   Philadelphia County.  Pottawattomee County.  Literally, Yoakum County, etc. 

Constipation should be called dereliction of doody.

Thank you.  

I'm sure you've addressed this before, but where do you think Reagan falls in the presidential rankings? (Also, the way he was spoken of in reverential tones by his fellow Republicans used to turn my stomach, so I find it hilarious that he has become so thoroughly devalued by Trumpkins.)

Reagan usually falls in around number 10 or 11.    Way better than average.  He gets too much credit, I think, for "ending the cold war."   But I am a lefty.   Of course, so was he, compared to this basket of deplorables. 

I agree with the poster. Ginsburg (and Breyer) were selfish for not resigning during the Obama presidency. Both were waiting and hoping that Dems would otherwise get a majority on the bench and then they could start writing majority opinions without having to kowtow to whims of Anthony Kennedy. Instead, they've put the advances made in the 20th century in jeopardy if Biden doesn't win and/or Democrats don't have a Senate majority. If one should die before the next president is sworn in, I have no doubt McConnell will move swiftly to jam through another justice. The vast majority of the Senate GOP faces no electoral consequences for the garbage they pull.

They should have sacrificed 6 years of service?  I think that's nuts.  You can never predict what will happen.  An Obama pick could prove NOT to be reliably liberal.

As somebody who has complained about the lameness of these jokes in past chats, I grudgingly admit that this batch is better than usual. 5 & 6 was the clear winner, to me.

One poster claims it's an old joke.   I do not recall hearing it. 

Actually, I'm finding something old. Having retired in my early fifties from my lucrative (but tedious) law practice, I'm ready to go back to my "passion": animals. I did a lot of animal-related work in high school and college. I didn't have the grades to get into vet school after college, though, and my parents were willing to fund law school 100% (a Caribbean vet school 0%), so off to law school I obediently trotted (and really, it was an excellent career move; no one likes to argue more than me!). Fast forward 30+ years, and I'm about to start (community) college to become a veterinary technician (I don't need the money but I figure I can be a very useful volunteer at animal shelters etc.). My question is, how to write a resume with a 30 year gap? Most of my previous animal-care employers are literally dead, and the rest don't remember me.

You're ashamed of having been a lawyer???   So your resume will skip that part?

A lot of sturm und drang about whether his orangeness will accept the election results and/or he starts a retribution tour doing as much damage as he can. My guess is that he largely disappears to Florida to play golf starting November 4. And he probably doesn't even show up for the inauguration. His whole life has been a series of failures, where he claims some mythical success and goes and chases the next thing he can fail at. Casinos go under? Say they were great and buy an airline! Real estate business fails? Sell your "brand" and create a reality show! What do you think? Does his cruelty allow him to stay with the defeat long enough to punish people? Or does his vanity and delusion force him to move on?

I think he is going to be facing economic ruin, a tailspin which will make it impossible to pull up and recover.  I think he has destroyed his brand. 

If I ever ran into you, I would tell you you're one my best friends. I don't mean this in a weird stalker way or as someone who lacks friends. I mean that our weekly conversations are as meaningful as any conversation I have with my close friends, only yours and ours occur more frequently. If I saw you at Eastern Market, I would make an effort to stop and introduce myself, because I'd think it rude not to! My poll idea is this: how do your readers characterize their (admittedly once-sided) relationship with you? I'd be curious to know if I'm unique (and therefore slightly unhinged) or if many of us feel as I do (which would give me some relief, actually).

I consider you one of my closest friends, too. 

The poll idea isn't bad, but there'd have to be a few choices about how much of a jerk I am.    A few weeks ago I met a woman who stopped me to tell me that.  "You make me so angry EVERY week," she said.  I am pretty sure she was smiling behind that mask, but maybe not. 

My degree is in marketing and I constantly critique ads (including political ones) on why they are good or bad. The one that kills me is the ad for "bent d*ck syndrome" where they have guys holding up and examining bent vegetables. Who thought that was a good idea? And how did it pass so many layers of corporate approval where someone said "Great ad, Bob, let's run with it"? Didn't it occur to anyone that people with a sophomoric sense of humor would be laughing at this ad, especially women? I can see a bunch of women, especially if they have a buzz on, saying stuff like "OMG! That squash looks like Joe Besarchik's thing, remember him from high school?!" I just don't see how this ad would make a man more confident about getting help for his d*ck, like, wow, my d*ck looks just like that carrot, I better seek help!

Well, I do have an infantile sense of humor, and I do think it's pretty funny.  Is it effective?  Might be.   Because despite the oddly bent veggies, the guys are pretty hot looking.   I will admit that in a brief foray on Google trying to find a female trimming ad I remembered and was going to link to, I discovered a trove of new ads for a razor that actually show pubic hair.  Not, like, hedges suggesting pubic hair, but, y'know.   Pubic hair.   Suddenly, around 15 minutes had passed.  

I once read a novel about a Jewish family in the 1950s. They referred to their maid as "the svartsie." In context, it seemed to be used as a neutral term. You would think it just meant "maid." However, I have studied a bit of German and suddenly realized that it probably means "the black," which seemed really offensive! Have you ever heard of such a usage?

I gather you are not Jewish.   Yes, a very common but thankfully out of date word.  I believe it was spelled schwartzer, but was  pronounced shvakhze, with that liquid back of the throat sound.  It was not MEANT pejoratively or condescendingly, but it sure came out that way.   Schwartze does mean "black" and it is a word I never heard used in my home.  

Oddly, the time I remember hearing it was on the NY subway when I was about 21, and it was used by a dark skinned Puerto Rican.   He was a subway stand-up comic who called himself "The Latin from Manhattan."    And he just started shouting jokes.   After about the third joke, he affected a perfect Yiddish accent -- Eddie Murphy quality -- and said "Hey, Blanche, why is the schwartzer talking so loud?"  Everyone cracked up, Jews and black people both.    I guess my point is, that word was (I think) perceived as an insult, but not (I think) as something truly foul.   Maybe because it is literal, and not obviously judgmental.   Jewish people named, say, "Jon Schwartz" are just Jon Black.  

Two weeks in a row, while shopping at a grocery store, I encountered a person "wearing" their mask incorrectly. As in, not actually covering any of their damn face holes. This made me extremely angry because every other damn person cooperates. However, I didn't approach either person for fear of retaliation. I also felt angry at the employees because they didn't address it. How would you handle it? I feel like employees have a legit reason to approach a customer and enforce store policy whereas another customer asking a person to wear their mask *properly* will result in resentment and a general attitude of F-YOU! P.S. I live in Los Angeles where COVID is rampant. Why are people so dumb and entitled?!

For the same reason people will drive on narrow city streets in their giant pig boat-cars like Cadillac Escalades, literally forcing some other cars going in the other direction to back down the street.

by the time of the chat I will be on my way to get my first cataract surgery. wish me good eyesight.

To paraphrase a punchline, afterwards you will discover you never looked so good. 

I am glad to hear you have not had covid-19 yet. As someone currently living in a covid hot spot in South Florida, it is hard not to worry about everyone I know, from my 88 year old grandmother to my 3 year old niece, getting sick or worse. I am completely distracted from my job, my household chores, etc. If I am being completely honest, this thing feels unrelenting here. When I talk to friends and family in other countries where everyone worked together to reduce community spread, they all express the same disbelief that we are blowing this thing so hard. How did we go from "The Greatest Country on Earth" to this clown show? Is there anything that we lowly, common citizens can do to help?

How did we get to the clown show?  We elected a clown.  Clowns put on shows.  

Have you watched the Mary Trump interviews (maybe you've even read her book)? Thoughts? Some commentators criticize her for not speaking up four years ago. Her response bascially is that nobody thought he could win four years ago.

I remember thinking no way he'd win on the day before the election.  

but one of the reasons that the cons have continued their hold on scotus is that the cons have consistently retired during a republican administration, as is rumored to happen soon with Thomas stepping down.

Interesting.  So he would do it, presumably, right now?

I joined late, so maybe someone else already pointed this out, but in addition to all the isms, the weirdest part by far about that ad was FEAR spelled out with Scrabble letters.

Does anyone know the story of that commercial?  What it was, whom it was meant to influence, why it was yanked?

Not ashamed, exactly, but my law experience is certainly not relevant to the jobs I'd be seeking. If you were hiring an estate lawyer, for example, would you pick someone whose resume heralded their most recent thirty years of employment in dermatology?

I think that your experience would be seen as. plus.   Interesting man.  Knows how to think and reason.   

I was pretty disappointed by your non-answer addressing her letter last week. I'm no fan of hers (or her politics), and I think it's absurd for her to claim she's been silenced, but I think that the bullying and name-calling she was subjected by NYT staffers and on their Slack channels are reprehensible. Do you think she's making it up? And this was a front page story at WaPo, yet the NYT didn't mention at all. I don't think this was an internal staff matter; it was news, and as a news organization, I think they should have covered it (objectively, by someone who didn't work with her, if necessary.) What's your take?

My take is that.   I think a newspaper is obliged to write about itself  if it is being talked about everywhere else. 

I've seen both of these before, and 95% sure it was here in this chat some time back.

It's possible!   5&6 seeemed vaguely familiar, but not the hat one, to me. 

Don't you wish there was a current Republican that would say this: "I thoroughly believe in the Republican Party *when it acts up to its principles*, but if I can prevent it I never shall let party zeal obscure my sense of right and decency." --Theodore Roosevelt, 1884

Yeah, thats just obsolete thinking! 

In your opinion, which is dumber: Bragging that you aced a cognitive abilities test or that some of the questions were hard? Surely someone explained to him that it wasn’t an intelligence test but a test for brain damage, with questions that are so easy, anyone not able to answer them correctly obviously is showing signs. It would be understandable if no one wanted to be the one to tell him that. It’s also understandable that he just didn’t understand.

It's really mind boggling, as it were. 

If that wins, I look forward to years of people arguing over whether the name is a tribute to black people or a subtle Confederate reference.

What if it's ... both.? Everyone wins. 

doing stuff they don't like. Not exactly like people bringing pets to the vet, but not entirely different. And lawyers are good at getting customers to pay what they are owed. Also a great thing to have in a vet practice. Also, you will have just completed a vet tech course at the local community college. Why don't you ask them how to deal with the gap. That being said, your situation is what functional resumes are made for. Just google it or get a resume book from the library. There will be plenty of examples.

Yep.   I think the lawyer is good to go.  

The Chief Horse's Ass of the United States. I have a couple of other Quackronyms, but this one is publishable.....


Okay, we're done.   Thanks.   And here's a way to submit questions for next week!  

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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. He was awarded the 2008 and 2010 Pulitzer Prizes for Feature Writing.

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