Gene Weingarten
Gene Weingarten
Columnist

Gene Weingarten: Making it short and tweet

I’ve often lamented the shortening of the attention spans of young people — a symptom, as I see it, of the insidious dumbing-down of America. So it did not surprise me at all to learn that the creator of the ultimate attention-span assassin, the Summly text-summarizing smartphone app, is a lad of 17.

Yahoo last month purchased Summly from Nick D’Aloisio for the reported sum of $30 million. (One of Nick’s financial backers is a man named, I swear, “Li Ka-shing.”)

Gene Weingarten

Gene Weingarten’s humor column, Below the Beltway, has appeared weekly in The Washington Post Magazine since July 2000. He also hosts a monthly humor chat. As a feature writer, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in both 2008 and 2010. Since 2010, he has co-authored the syndicated comic strip “Barney and Clyde.”

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Young Nick has bragged that Summly can efficiently tell any story — any text, of any length or complexity — in 400 characters or fewer. This whole concept appalls me, but if there are millions of dollars out there for this sort of thing, I’m happy to jump in the game. Yoo-hoo, Yahoo: I can provide summaries of long things in 139 characters — even less than a tweet. And mine rhyme.

***

The U.S. Constitution

We get all these civil rights!

Discrimination’s nixed!

Blacks are worth 3/5 of whites!

(Oh, wait. We got that fixed.)

***

“Ulysses”

Let’s just cut to the chase, I guess:

Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes.

***

The entire Sunday New York Times

Corruption, intrigue, crime and disease,

Plus recipes with Camembert cheese.

Similarly,

Any city magazine

Politics, profiles, woman-kills-lover

(But “50 Best Caterers!” fills up the cover.)

***

“War and Peace”

It’s great! It’s epic! And to its credit,

No one’s ever actually read it.

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The Old Testament

God is angry! God’s remote!

Do his bidding or be smote.

***

The daily newspaper comics pages

Old gags — some just kinda lame, some very

… and “Doonesbury.”

***

Rand Paul’s filibuster

Drone, drone, drone

I’m mad and getting madder

Drone, drone ... done.

(Courtesy, my bladder. )

***

Any one of my columns

I am cranky, I am old

Underpants? Comedic gold.

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E-mail Gene at weingarten@washpost.com. Find chats and updates at washingtonpost.com/magazine.

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